Making your website mobile-compatible

Mark Boniface, project director at digital agency Jellyfish, gives some tips on producing a user-friendly website for mobile devices.

Consumers are increasingly using their mobile devices to access the internet and to make purchases. The relationship between ownership of high-end devices such as tablets and smartphones, and a user base with a high disposable income means there is an opportunity for sales and subscription conversion. The key here is delivering a great user experience, which will tap in to a market with both a disposable income, and an interest in the mobile medium.

The technical difficulties of this process are based predominantly on the need to undertake significant testing across multiple devices, with varying versions of operating system software and device firmware. Ongoing enhancement is also essential to ensure that users on lower bandwidth mobile devices would have a good user experience by delivering higher compression/ smaller form factor graphics to reduce load times on slower network connections.

Businesses of all sizes need to exploit the opportunity of the modern array of mobile devices. The number of mobile transactions and subscriptions is increasing exponentially, having the tools to take advantage of this and to maximise conversion and analyse results should be part of the armoury of any company.

So, if you are developing your first mobile site, you may be at a loss. That’s understandable – a mobile-compatible website is an entirely different beast from a traditional website. Here are some top tips to get you started:

1. Conversion: Any form or entry points on your site should be as concise as possible and include validation that makes it easy for the user to enter content without frustration. A typical complaint for a web form is that it includes too many fields that are unnecessary and doesn’t notify you of any problems with your data until after you’ve pressed submit. Make it easy for the user to contact you and don’t put any barrier in their path to conversion.

2. Accessibility: Make sure that your website is compatible with all, or at least the main, current mobile devices. Your website must integrate with the operating systems used in these key devices: iPhone OS, Android, BlackBerry and Windows. Don’t use Flash when building your mobile site as many smartphone and tablet devices do not support it, use HTML5 and javascript to create any animated content elements if necessary.

3. Load time: Mobile consumers are often users who have little time and they will be turned off if they cannot accomplish a task or receive necessary information very quickly. Check the load time of your site and make sure it doesn’t exceed three seconds. Using responsive design to ensure that the number and size of images used in your mobile versions is significantly less than your desktop versions.

4. Content: It’s important to consider the user experience as completely standalone when designing content for mobile. Keep the content as concise as possible. Focus on the information your visitors are most likely to be searching for. For example; directions to your office, a click-to-call phone number, products to purchase.

5. Branding: Even though your mobile site will be more streamlined and feature slightly different content than your traditional site, you should still incorporate consistent branding elements. Your online mobile presence is another digital touchpoint and as such should deliver reassurance to your users by using the same branding, palette and typography where possible.

6. Keywords: In mobile everything is small so try to use common phrases to cut your site to appear in mobile search results. If you are running a mobile specific campaign, keep your ad copy really short and concise to ensure that it is visible on smaller format smartphone devices.

7. Usability: It is essential to simplify the interface for ease of use, load times and aesthetics. The user interface should be specifically crafted for each device format. Your tablet format interface should include finger friendly navigation and larger scale imagery to give users a bespoke high end tablet experience. Your smartphone version should include less imagery and a navigation that enables users to engage with the content above the very compromised fold. If all the user can see on page load is the navigation, the chances are that they will spend 10 seconds clicking the navigational buttons that they can see rather then reading any content and then navigate away from your site.

8. Mobile Search: Mobile search rules are slightly different and if you want your site indexable, you need to meet them. If your site does not meet the mobile standards, it will still be displayed in search results, but it will be trans-coded by the search engines which convert the sites into mobile format, but this is not done in a sophisticated manner and the result may not be as expected.

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