5 Mobile-friendly Website Tips
By Pam Baker
If your website contains a Content Management System (CMS), such as Drupal or WordPress, you’ll want to take a look at the plugins that are available for mobile editions. Plugins optimize your website for mobile viewing and are often the easiest options to use. Many are free, but some charge a premium.
“We have two go-to plugins for optimizing a WordPress website for mobile. Mobile from PluginBuddy, a premium plugin that starts at $45, is one. The support you receive for your $45 investment is stellar to say the least,” said Jarrod “Jay” Skeggs, partner at StudioD.tv. “WPtouch, a free plugin, is another. We have had good experience with it in the past.”
2. Consider DIY mobile website builders
“There are a number of sites that offer mobile website building services — often at no cost,” said Drew Barton, president and founder of Southern Web Group, a web design firm. “For example, Mobify has a free option. The service is widely used by some of the world’s leading publications.”
The dotMobi mobile website tool, Instant Mobilizer, is arguably the best known and is even incorporated on several leading website hosting services such as GoDaddy.com. However, dotmobi websites do not actually need third-party hosting.
“GoMobi websites are hosted ‘in the cloud’ by DotMobi, so SMBs don’t pay extra for hosting or have to worry about other technology aspects,” said Trey Harvin, CEO of DotMobi. “Since a GoMobi website works on all mobile handsets, it ensures a business is available on the complete range of mobiles available, not just iPhones and Androids.”
3. Avoid using Flash
“Get rid of Flash. Period, end of story,” said Kate McGinley, vice president of operations at McGinley Media Limited, a mobil app and website development firm. “It’s often not supported, and when it does, it takes too long to load, and you lose viewer interest.” Unfortunately, many regular websites do include Flash. Be extra careful to find it and eliminate it on the pages you want to be mobile friendly.
4. Keep the ‘Fat Finger’ in mind
Nothing detracts from a mobile experience more than a frustrated consumer unable to navigate a mobile site and click on hyperlinked text, warned Diane Buzzeo, CEO of Ability Commerce. Given the small size of a mobile screen, make text links larger for a mobile website. Similarly, make it easy for people browsing a phone to call you. “Phone numbers normally displayed in text can be enhanced with code to call upon touch,” she said. “Using TapToCall for customer service lines and other numbers is easy to integrate and a good alternative to advanced coding.”
5. Find good website models
Look at sites that have well-built mobile versions and how they contrast with their traditional desktop site. Amazon, Newegg and CNN are a few examples where you can draw inspiration and best practices. “You’ll find that they have removed animation and hover text, Web features that don’t transfer over to mobile devices well,” explained Buzzeo. “Take a cue from the leader in the industry and then test based on your own customer demographics.”
Testing is important in order to see your mobile website as your customers do. Testing on actual devices can be difficult, especially if you don’t already own all the devices you need to test. However, online testing sites are typically not as good as testing on the real device.
Try asking friends and customers to try your site on their device and offer feedback. This will dramatically reduce your testing cost, but it will also provide you with valuable insight into what your actual customers prefer to see on your new mobile-friendly website.
Pam Baker has written for numerous leading publications including, Institutional Investor magazine, CIO.com, NetworkWorld, ComputerWorld, IT World, Linux World, Internet News, E-Commerce Times, LinuxInsider, CIO Today Magazine, NPTech News (nonprofits), MedTech Journal, I Six Sigma magazine, Computer Sweden, the NY Times, and Knight-Ridder/McClatchy newspapers.