There's no longer any room for argument — Ofcom reports that 94% of people in the UK own a mobile phone and Office for National Statistics research shows that 53% of users access the internet via a mobile device. With figures like that, it is essential that your website works as well on a smartphone as it does on a traditional PC or laptop
Kate Horstead finds out how to make your website smartphone-friendly.
Before you start creating a whole new smartphone-friendly website, you should assess whether your existing website is suitable for viewing on a mobile screen.
“Look at what you already have before you rush out and adapt your site,” recommends Benjamin Dyer, ecommerce expert at SellerDeck. “Mobile screens are getting bigger, so most sites are already usable. It might just need a few tweaks.”
If your website has a lot of graphics and detail, it is probably unsuitable. “But if your site has a simple, clean and fresh-looking layout, with intelligent use of content, chances are it will look really good on a mobile screen,” says Dyer.
“A good search tool is paramount,” he adds. “Mobile users find it difficult to keep scrolling, and multiple pull-down menus can be infuriating.”
“If a lot of people access your site from an iPhone or Android device, monitor that to see if there’s an increase,” suggests Dyer. “If smartphone users are visiting your site and bouncing off immediately, you should make changes.”
Look at how your website appears on the device your target customers use — if they are business-to-business customers, they might use a Blackberry, while consumers may be more likely to use an iPhone.
If you need to make your website more smartphone-friendly, check whether your existing website package includes mobile support.
“Many existing content management systems, such as Joomla, can put code into your site so that someone browsing on their laptop sees the full site, and on a mobile it defaults to a stripped-down version, which has the same functionality but is easier to use,” explains Dyer.
According to Dyer, a web designer would charge roughly £2,000 to create a basic mobile-friendly website template, although this varies depending on complexity.
For your mobile-friendly site, scaled-down images will ensure faster loading speeds and enable them to fit on the screen.
“Some content management systems allow you to upload images and it will create thumbnail-only sites,” Dyer advises. “But you can scale images down easily using Adobe Photoshop (or a free alternative like Paint.NET) too.
“Remember, mobile visitors may be on a train with limited signal,” he warns.
Bear in mind that users may be even more concerned about security than usual. Products such as Stripe or PayPal enable you to take secure payments via mobile phone, in exchange for a small transaction fee.
Dyer reiterates that usability should be front of mind when designing a smartphone-friendly website.
“If smartphone-users can navigate easily, and find and buy products without facing barriers, they are more likely to come back to your site,” he concludes.