Whether you are creating a website from scratch or thinking about how to boost the power and reach of an existing site, mobile readiness is probably in the front of your mind.
And if it’s not, it should be.
That’s because the use of smartphones and other handheld mobiles devices to access web content continues to be a growing part of internet usage. So, if you want to maximize the user experience and your website investment, having a mobile-ready website is a must.
Why is mobile readiness important?
When you’re looking for information about a potential purchase, how do you go online to search for what you need? While the desktop is far from dead, chances are good that you often reach for a mobile device.
Google predicted a shift toward more mobile browsing several years ago and, in what was dubbed “Mobilegeddon,” in 2015 began boosting the rankings of “mobile-friendly” websites for searches made from mobile devices.
In 2018, the shift to mobile became official: Worldwide, 52.2% of all online traffic was generated through mobile phones, up from 50.3% the previous year. Although the desktop still accounts for a sizeable amount of browsing here in the U.S., it seems only a matter of time before mobility takes over.
According to TechCrunch, “Going forward, companies that haven’t yet decided to focus on a mobile-first approach to their internet services and web properties really should, as the trend line is unlikely to reverse.” In this approach, the needs of the mobile user, rather than traditional desktop user, drive website design and content.
The good news is, creating a mobile-ready website doesn’t have to be difficult. However, there are different ways to go about it, and choices to be made.
What are the different types of mobile-ready websites?
When you go to build, refresh, or update your website, one of your most important goals is to make the experience satisfying for all users — delivering content, design, and performance no matter how a user accesses the site.
A mobile-ready website is one that is accessible, readable, and user friendly for visitors across all devices. However, there are a number of other terms used to describe mobile readiness, which can result in some confusion. For example, what is the difference between mobile friendly and responsive?
In fact, these different terms (below) reflect different methods of achieving mobile readiness. So, understanding the basic terminology is important in deciding how to build your mobile-ready website.
What is a mobile-friendly website?
A mobile-friendly website is one that is designed to work the exact same way across different devices, with no significant differences in usability between desktop and mobile access. Generally, a mobile-friendly website is designed for the desktop and then tweaked so it can also be viewed well on a mobile device.
For instance, the type size might be at least 14 or 16 points so that when content is shrunken down on a smartphone screen, it is not too tiny to read. The site might include links that allow mobile users to click to call, get directions, or email directly from their mobile devices.
It is fairly easy to convert a website to mobile friendly. Still, while a mobile-friendly site can be perfectly functional for mobile users, it is often not as user friendly as when the same site is viewed on a desktop.
What is a mobile website?
This approach to mobile readiness typically involves having two versions of a website: the full desktop site found at the main web address, such as “XYZwebsite.com,” and a separate version that is built especially for mobile access, with a URL such as “XYZwebsite.com/mobile.”
With a mobile website, visitors are automatically directed to the appropriate site (desktop vs. mobile) according to the type of device they are using. Usually the mobile website is a “lite” version of the full site, with streamlined content and features, and fewer or simpler graphics so that the site will load quickly on a mobile device.
Because a mobile site can be developed independently and tailored to the mobile user, it’s an easy way to supplement an existing desktop site with a mobile-ready site. However, having two websites means twice the maintenance, requiring any updates and changes to be done twice.
What is a mobile-optimized website?
As a more advanced method of creating mobile readiness, a mobile-optimized website is one that reformats itself based on the type of mobile device that is accessing the site.
Rather than presenting a “shrunken” version of a desktop site, a mobile-optimized website is designed for the smaller screens of a list of handheld or tablet devices. That means the site incorporates features and functionality that are optimized for mobility, such as:
- Single column layout
- Simple, “thumb-friendly” navigation
- Uncluttered design with easy-to-click features
- Content that’s formatted for readability
- Limited or no need for typing
- Smaller image file sizes, for quicker page loading
So, a mobile-optimized website is designed so that mobile users can find information and navigate the site quickly and easily.
What is a mobile-responsive website?
The ultimate in mobile readiness, a mobile-responsive website is one that literally adapts to the screen size of the device being used. It is based on responsive web design (RWD), which was originally created to provide a good experience for PC and laptop users across different screen types, resolutions, and sizes.
Today, RWD is largely focused on providing the best possible experience for mobile device users. That includes making a website easy to read and navigate without a lot of resizing, panning, and scrolling.
Automatically scaling its layout as needed for everything from a mobile phone screen to a widescreen monitor, a mobile-responsive website works well for all users. It ensures that the site will look good and have optimized usability on any device.
Which mobile-ready website approach is best for you?
The choice of method for achieving a mobile-ready website will depend on a lot of variables, including:
- Your purpose for the website
- The experience you want your visitors to have
- The devices you expect your visitors to typically use
- Your budget
For instance, a mobile-friendly website is often considered the basic standard for achieving mobile readiness. If your main goal is to ensure that Google recognizes your site for purposes of mobile ranking, mobile friendly may be a good solution for you.
On the other hand, is mobile-friendly good enough for your visitors? For example, in your industry, do website visitors expect full features and content? If so, they might be disappointed by an experience that is scaled-back to accommodate mobile devices.
With a mobile website, the experience is designed for the mobile users’ needs. However, if your visitors often switch between desktop and mobile devices — and the full and “lite” versions of your site — they may become frustrated if they don’t have a seamless and consistent experience.
In terms of budget, mobile-optimized and mobile-responsive websites take longer to develop and build. That makes them more expensive than mobile-friendly or mobile websites.
But if you use your site for ecommerce — or you know your customers are highly mobile and want full functionality on-the-go — an optimized or responsive site might deliver a better ROI.
Balance your goals and the customer experience.
Clearly, having a website that is easy to read and navigate is important for attracting visitors and keeping them on your site. That means thinking about all your website visitors and designing your site to ensure they all have the kind of experience you want them to have.
In the end, your route to mobile readiness will be based on both your business goals and the needs and expectations of your customers.
If you’re not sure whether your website is mobile ready — or you know you need to create a mobile-ready website, but you’re not sure which approach to take — HELLO Marketing can help you get started with a free 20-minute consultation. Contact Lauren at 973.214.5942 or firstname.lastname@example.org.