Creating a mobile-friendly website can need investment, which is often a challenge for bloggers and small businesses.
Most bloggers and small businesses don’t have their own in-house web development team, so any investment in outsider support needs to be well justified – but where does that leave mobile?
There’s been a lot of noise about the importance of catering for mobile visitors to your website in the past few years, but many bloggers remain to be convinced.
And while tablets are helping to make mobile screens larger, and smartphones are increasingly capable of zooming in on the finest details of high-resolution websites, there’s still a case to be made for serving mobile-specific versions of your site.
That might mean providing different information to mobile visitors, or simply changing the way the site displays for them.
Here are just three of the best ways to make any website more mobile-friendly and hopefully increase your number of mobile customers as a result.
1. Create a mobile stylesheets
If you don’t know much about web design, you may not have heard of Cascading Stylesheets, or CSS, but in essence they separate the design of your website from its content.
A Cascading Stylesheet can be totally separate from the webpage itself, with just a piece of code up top in the HTML file (or PHP, or whichever web programming language you’re using) telling the visitor’s browser where to look for all of the colours, font sizes and so on.
This allows you to specify different CSS for mobile users – a higher contrast between the text and the background, for instance, or larger font sizes.
You might want to go so far as to hide entire parts of your page if they just clutter up the display for mobile users. This can be achieved simply by specifying a ‘display:none’ attribute in the right places.
Be intelligent about the way you set up your mobile pages – you might be reluctant to remove advertising if it makes revenues on your ‘normal’ website, but think about how mobile users navigate your site.
You may realize that you don’t make advertising profit from mobile visitors, meaning you may as well scrap it. As with everything online, testing is key to finding the most successful mobile style.
2. Use low-resolution graphics
Not every mobile user is hooked up to a Wi-Fi connection, which means many of them will be eating into their data allowance or even paying by the megabyte for downloading your website.
If your homepage has, for example, an enormous graphic watermark as its background, which does little to add any real informational value to the page, think about removing it on the mobile version.
Likewise, consider using much lower-resolution images throughout your mobile site, even if you then link them to the high-res pictures for visitors who want to see them.
The mobile web should be all about streamlined content and flexible access. If your homepage alone takes a few minutes to download via a 3G connection, it’s unlikely that visitors will stick around to try and load any more pages.
3. Ditch the Flash
Flash – formerly by Macromedia, and now owned by Adobe – has been blight on web design for many years.
In the old days, it was one of the only ways to add good animated content to websites, but it has been overtaken by much easier, more widely compliant alternatives.
Apple devices in particular usually don’t support Flash, due to a long-running feud between the two companies. That means you could be making your site inaccessible to all iPhone and iPad users if a page relies on Flash for navigation or to provide important information.
It’s not just Flash though. Just like with high-resolution images, a website filled with animations and navigation technology can be extremely frustrating and expensive for mobile visitors. Don’t be tempted to put style above usability, it will cost you customers.
Keep calm and build a profile
Of course, not every business has the capital to invest in an all-singing, all-dancing mobile site. It can be expensive to develop, test and maintain a mobile-friendly site – and most small businesses have enough to do keeping their main website up and running.
But there are other, cheaper options that require far less site maintenance. Companies like Telnames allow you to create mobile-friendly profile pages for a fraction of the normal cost, whilst platform plugins such as WP-Touch (WordPress) or the mobile plugin for Drupal allow you to be mobile ready in just a few minutes.
As a blogger are you missing out on the potential of mobile search? Have you started the process of thinking about your mobile consumers? I would love to hear your views in the comments below.