In Part I of our topic, we discussed the various options for mobile web optimization including responsive design, mobile specific websites, and the use of mobile web frameworks such as Sencha Touch. There are a number of factors that go into making a decision as to which approach is the best for your organization. This article will review some of those decision factors.
What’s your mobile strategy?
As in most efforts, starting by defining your strategy usually makes good sense. Why do you want a mobile website? Does it give your company an advantage? Are your customers requesting it? Are a high number of visitors to your current site using a mobile device? Is your customer base inherently mobile based on your business category? Does all of your content need to be accessible via mobile? Answering these questions and understanding what it is that you want to accomplish and clearly defining your mobile strategy will go a long way to making the proper decisions when it comes to building your mobile website. Remember: deciding that you need a mobile website just because it’s trendy or because your competitor does is not a strategy.
Who’s Your Mobile Audience?
Before embarking on a new mobile website, you will want to understand whether your prospects and customers even use mobile devices, and if so, which types. If you have an existing website, you will want to examine your web traffic analytics to see visitor trends with respect to the number of mobile visits, what they are doing on your site, and which devices they are using. If you don’t currently have a website and/or you want to get a better feel for the potential mobile usage of your site, consider polling your existing customers to understand their browsing habits, devices, and which actions they would likely perform from their mobile devices. Understanding your audience and their mobile habits will greatly help when it comes time to make decisions about your mobile website.
What Content and Functionality Will Be Mobile Accessible?
A common misconception is that all content needs to be mobile accessible. Nothing could be further from the truth. Every site is different, so understanding your audience is key, but there are some generalities that can be made about information access via a mobile device. Broadly speaking, consumers of mobile content are on the move, and are looking for specific information quickly. A mobile user is much more likely to be looking for a contact name, your phone number, your hours of operation, the name of your product, the price, wanting to place an order, wanting to contact support, and other “just in time” content needs. Mobile users are less likely to want to read your newsletter, your blog, or your product literature, or your executive bios from their smart phones. Yet user behavior in a tablet computer may not be different at all from that of desktop browser. You will want to get inside of the heads of your visitors to understand what part of your content that they will be most likely to consume from a desktop, from a tablet, and from a phone. This will in turn help you to determine whether your entire site needs to be mobile accessible, or only certain sections/content/functionality.
What Are Your SEO Plans For Mobile?
Understanding how the major search engines such as Google will treat your website is important to your SEO plans. There are considerations related to indexing, re-directs, how duplicate content is treated, and URL structure which will come into play when deciding whether to use a responsive site or a dedicated mobile-specific website. You will want to understand how these aspects will impact your website in the different mobile scenarios before making a decision.
Who will be maintaining your website?
A big factor in deciding your mobile needs is to understand who in your organization (or externally) will be maintaining your website on an ongoing basis after it has been initially built and what their skill sets are. If non-technical folks will be working on the content of the site, then you will want to ensure that they have a content management system (CMS) functionality to be able to add and edit content without getting developers involved. This can play into the type of mobile solution that you may ultimately choose to go with. Generally speaking, an advantage of a responsive website is that there is a single website to be maintained as compared to maintaining two sites – a dedicated mobile site as well as a desktop site. However, this usually requires that the person(s) maintaining the site have a good understanding of how responsive design works and is able to modify the site and its content with this in mind.
Before deciding upon a dedicated mobile website or website using responsive design, it is important to consider the various decision factors in the context of your business and your needs. Simply deciding upon one approach or the other based upon popularity or trends can be a mistake. Take time to learn as much as possible about the different approaches and the pros and cons with respect to your business and your mobile strategy, and the proper decision will usually become obvious. You will also want to discuss these factors with your web developer/designer to make sure that they are in agreement with your approach and that they understand and can execute on the plan.