With the introduction of the iPhone and iPad, there has been a rapid proliferation of smart phones and tablets in recent years. As of October 2011, according to comScore research, seven percent of all web traffic in the USA was from these handheld devices. Many predict handheld browsing will dominate within the next few years.
So what makes a mobile-friendly site, and does your site need to be “mobilized?”
How does a mobile site work?
Simply put, a mobile site is one that recognizes the device being used, and adapts to the browser window size. This is often called (buzzword alert) “responsive design.”
Most recent smartphones will show the majority of websites as-is, but those sites either become so small they are difficult to read, or the user must scroll horizontally and/or resize page sections to view the content. A mobile-friendly site will detect that a smartphone is being used, and reorganize content for the small screen so that it is both legible and does not require horizontal scrolling.
While it’s not perfect—this is being done for a desktop browser—you can see a simulation of the effect using the link below.
Desktop Simulation of Garland Mobile (Note: The “mobile” site may not render properly on older desktop browsers such as IE7 or 8—the mobile version was designed for devices like iPhones, not a small IE7 window.)
While there are multiple ways of “mobilizing” a website, the best in most situations is to design a single site so that it seamless adapts to the device or browser being used to view it. Another option is to use a script that detects the device, and sends smartphones to a second version of the site, often on a subdomain (mobile.your-domain-name.com). There are also some third-party services that claim to create a mobile version of your site for free, but our tests show them as likely to work as “one-size fits all” stretch pants fitting a 150 lb marathon runner and a 450 lb sumo wrestler!
Do I need a mobile-friendly site?
With smartphones, tablets and handheld browsing growing much faster than desktop browsing, the answer is—or will be—yes for most. But the answer also depends on your target market. If your website is geared for the elderly, a mobile site is not likely to have much impact. But if your site caters a younger crowd, or you have a remote sales force that needs to connect from the road, a mobile site is probably a must.
Feel free to contact us for information on making your site mobile-friendly.