Gone are the days of having to sit in front of your desk with a computer that had an internet connection to surf the web. Today smart phones tend to be the device of choice, whether in bed before you turn out the lights, in between meetings, in the waiting room at the dentist and even during dinner out with friends and family.
With the steady reduction in mobile data tariffs, more affordable smart phones and tablets, consumers are moving more toward mobile browsing. Web development has evolved yet again, and if you haven’t heard it yet, listen up, it is vital to optimise your website for mobile users as your online presence is about to be left behind if you don’t jump on the bandwagon!
A no-brainer trend prediction is the continued growth of mobile traffic and usage. In terms of market-share, mobile platform strategist Peter-Paul Koch expects mobile browsing to exceed 10 per cent in 2012.
At work users will still use desktops and laptops however the revolution of mobile devices has increased the ratio of users surfing the net especially at times of the day when hit rates were low in the past.
Hit rates on various websites would usually suffer on weekends, in the evenings and on the eve of public holidays. However, ever since users started using the net whilst out and about, the gap of internet usage between such days and times and other days of the week has evened out. What business owners need to realise is that if their website is not optimised to be viewed on tablets and smartphones, they are missing out on capturing this growing audience. This is a testimony to how important it is to have a mobile friendly site that appears well and that works fast on these mobile devices.
In addition to this, business owners have also expressed interest for mobile applications (apps) so as to allow end consumers to interact with their site through their mobile device. Be it purchasing a flight or a product, leaving reviews or subscribing to get updates for new recipes and/or products, mobile applications allow consumers to have the same experience on their mobile device as they would if they were sitting at their laptop or computer.
The mobile revolution will lead to a re-definition of what constitutes a good site. Koch holds that making sites ready for mobile will also cause change for the good: “No more Flash, hover effects and pixel-perfect rendering in all browsers. Instead: responsive design, device APIs, and deciding which features are so important that they must be shown on the mobile site, along with an enhanced awareness that a website should work on any device.”
Whilst some plug-ins exist that will help optimise a site for mobile devices, the majority will have to be completely redesigned in order to hit the nail on the head. When considering design options for your mobile optimisation, think about the content your user is looking for.
Mobile browsers simply do not have enough space for all of the awesome content you provide on your site, especially if it is graphics heavy. You don’t want your users to be annoyed with the difficulty of navigating on your site using their mobile device. Use large navigation buttons so it’s easy to click through with your finger. A slow site or even not being able to easily click through a website on an iPad or tablet is frustrating.
By giving your audience a better experience via their mobile device, you are, in effect, driving more traffic to your website. Who doesn’t want to drive more traffic to their website?
The mobile revolution has generated a crucial requirement for there to be understanding between the designers and the developers of a website or application. It is vital for all parties to understand that the appearance and “funky” or “cool” factor alone isn’t everything. User interface, style, content, speed and simplicity need to be treated with equal respect.
Mr Zammit Ciantar is a director at InFusion Solutions, a local provider of custom-made web solutions.
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