It won’t be long before internet usage from mobiles is greater than desktops. According to a study by market analyst firm IDC (Aug 2011);
‘The number of people accessing the Internet from smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices will surpass the number of users connecting from a home or office computer by 2015’
Across a range of our B2B clients the mobile visitor percentage is currently 15%; a smaller but no less significant statistic and an indicator of increased mobile web usage.
For those considering instigating a mobile website for their company then I’ve compiled this mini-guide. Bear in mind it is not a ‘how to’ guide more of a ‘things to consider’. I hope you find the information insightful and helpful.
For starters, let’s look at the things I would prompt you to think about and look into when planning your mobile website.
The BIG questions
• Why do you need a mobile website? – Build the business justification. Define which business processes the mobile website will support.
• What should the mobile website do? – it needs to support your corporate objectives and have a defined purpose. (Sorry "We just need a mobile site" is not justification.)
• Why do your B2B prospects (or existing clients) need you to provide a mobile website?
• What do you want your mobile site visitors to do?
• How will you measure the success of the mobile site? I am suggesting web analytics but more importantly you need to ask if you can track meaningful metrics into your CRM tools?
The smaller yet still large questions
Are you delivering an informational or transactional website?
Will visitors be seeking information about your company and will they want to read the information on the mobile device or would downloads, emails or a traditional website be a more effective channel?
Will users be seeking to undertake a transaction on your website such as enquiring, requesting a meeting, finding your office location etc?
At what point on their user journey is a visitor coming to your mobile website?
Ultimately you need to consider the context of the visit; the visitor may be engaging for the first time or may be further down the line having received a proposal. Similarly they may be responding to a blog, advertisement of even meeting your team at an event. Essentially by considering what your visitor is doing and thinking before their visit, you stand a better chance of providing the experience they require based upon a justified business case for each scenario.
Resourcing and budgeting
Budget is naturally a consideration although it is important to consider 2 main elements:
The upfront resource – The amount of upfront resource required to develop the mobile site and whether this is available in house or will a 3rd party developer be needed (both require budget).
Ongoing maintenance – Determine how much effort will be required to manage the mobile website and who will be responsible for its management? Is the technology capable of managing amends and is there a CMS to manage the content on the mobile website? All of this will require budget.
I have included four options for implementing a mobile website. I am sure there are more ways of delivering a mobile experience but these are the ones I am currently thinking about:
A. Stand-alone website ("mobile only website")
Pros: unique content and user experience
Cons: Extra resource required to initially build the site & and yet another digital asset to maintain
B. Mobile view of your main website ("same content in a mobile viewable format") – aka “responsive design”
Pros: Uses existing website CMS & content but presented in a format optimised for mobile devices
Cons: Existing website copy will be potentially be too bulky for the mobile site
C. Hybrid website ("displaying parts of the main website on a mobile website")
Pros: Uses existing website CMS & content but presents less information on a mobile device (requires media query handling)
Cons: Requires enhancements to the CMS – this option is very much platform dependent
D. Dressing the mobile website as an App (deliver any of the above options and get the site listed on the major App stores)
Pros: Increase the marketing exposure and reach of your mobile site by getting it listed on App stores.
Cons: By delivering your mobile website as an App you will need to do the final dress-up phase for each App network (device OS or manufacturer) you wish to target.
Often I’m asked for an App when in fact a mobile website is needed … with this in mind and in the context of this blog post I am thinking – the ‘mobile website’ is the way to deliver content and the App aspect is simple a way to market the website.
There are of course subtleties and nuances to the above implementation options that need to be discussed on a case by case, project by project basis.
When considering the technical aspects of a mobile website think about the sorts of devices your users will be on and plan for the following variables:
• Devices, their operating systems and browsers
• Screen resolution
• Screen rotation
• Tablet versus phone
• How to handle first time visitors from mobile devices and desktops
• How to handle repeat visitors from mobile devices and desktops
• Domain handling – mobile.domain.com versus domain.com/mobile
Remember to use the data in your existing web analytics package to help inform your decisions on all of the above. Bear in mind however, that historic data may not indicate what devices you should be developing for but will tell you what devices are currently being used to visit the site. Ideally use ratios and identify trends to plan for the future.
Writing a mobile brief
I have written a few mobile website briefs now and the following sections have offered enough information to design and develop the mobile website. Naturally this won’t be a “one size fits all” option but I hope you take it and make it your own.
• Why are we doing this project …
• Headline purpose of the mobile website …
• We want the visitor to ….
• We want the website to do the following… because of the rationale …
• We want the website visitor to interact with the following elements …
• We want the visitor to do the following …
• We need to measure the following to monitor success …
• We are going to use the following web analytics package to track the following …
• We are going to track the following into other CRM packages …
• We are going to track in-bound calls via the mobile website by …
• The site will use the following hierarchy of page …
• The site will use these styles of navigation …
• Here is the sitemap …
• External websites should be linked to by …
• The site should use the following calls to action …
• The devices the site should work on – operating systems, browsers, screen resolutions …
• Interaction layer of the website – working on touch-input devices …
• Handling visitors to the main website …
• Handling desktop visitors to the mobile website …
• The website should work like this …
• The calls to actions should do this …
• This should happen when a user interacts with this …
• This should happen when a user submits an enquiry …
• When a mobile visitor visits the desktop website we want this message and action to show …
To expand your knowledge of mobile websites and the options available to you, visit the following resources;
• Mobile statistics, Econsultancy.
• Mobile Websites and Apps Optimization Best Practice Guide, Econsultancy.
• Google mobile sites – try out Google’s mobile website building product.
Various good mobile articles;
• Smashing Magazine (and look at their website generally, it uses a responsive design and fits in with my mobile implementation ‘option B’ above).
• Mobilise your website, .net magazine.
• 21 tools for responsive web design, .net magazine.