Thursday, September 22, 2011

Is Your Website Mobile-Friendly?

The way people use the Internet is changing rapidly. According to an annual report on Internet access conducted by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), 45% of UK adults use their mobile phone to access the web, compared to just 31% last year, and 23% in 2009.

The research also revealed that in the 12 month period an estimated six million people had accessed the Internet via their mobile for the first time. This incredibly rapid shift in online behaviour can undoubtedly be traced to access to faster connections and larger, clearer screens, thanks to the widespread availability of smart phones such as iPhones and Blackberries.

But despite these advances in mobile technology, the onus remains on webmasters to ensure that their site is user-friendly when accessed from a mobile phone. With almost half of all consumers going online while out and about, and with that proportion likely to grow each year, can you afford for your page not to display properly on mobiles?

Tailoring your site for mobile phone users

Ideally, you would have two very similar but unique sites on the same domain, and provide web users with the option to use either one that is designed specifically for desktop/ laptop computers, or one which is tailored for the mobile Internet.

Pages for use on modern phones can be coded in much the same way as normal, using XHTML but with a mobile profile. The most important thing is to ensure that your web design team are familiar with the differences in usability and layout between mobile Internet use and 'conventional' use.

In terms of web copy, it may be tempting to simply port across your existing content using cut and paste, but this may be a mistake. Web users have notoriously short attention spans and the smaller the screen, the less time they are likely to want to spend reading through paragraphs and paragraphs of content. Best to keep it simple with an un-crowded page layout, and short snappy content.

Finally, when creating your content for mobile users, remember to make use of features that make mobile phones different from desktop computers. Like what? Well, how about the ability to make a phone call? If someone's trying to find a service quickly while on the move, think how convenient it would be for them to be able to simply click the number on the mobile version of your site to be put through to your customer services department. It's little touches like that which can really make your website mobile-friendly.

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