Optimize your website for mobile users
Posted Dec 1, 2009 8:59 PM CDT
By Dennis Kennedy
We’re all going mobile these days. the combination of smartphones, apps, mobile browsers, high-speed access and reasonably priced data plans has given us the tools for all-the-time access to the Internet from anywhere. The mobile platform is here.
However, the mobile Internet platform is also unpolished and evolving. Using a cell phone to view websites can be quite frustrating, and not just for the obvious reason—small screen sizes. The real problem is that most websites are not optimized for cell phone viewing.
The user experience on a modern, graphics-intensive webpage can be abysmal on a cell phone. Have you tried looking at your own website or your firm’s website in a mobile browser? It might surprise you.
But increasingly you can find websites that have specifically designed mobile versions of some pages or the entire site. Not surprisingly, these pages have small file sizes and focus on text, simple layouts and the elimination of graphics. Viewed on your computer browser, the look is quite minimalist. However, on mobile phones they work very well.
NOW’S THE TIME
The early period in an Internet trend is always a great time to experiment, and it makes sense to try a mobile version of your website and, especially, your blog.
You’ll want to consider what your target audience is, how its members use mobile devices and what audience or potential audience you will reach with a mobile version. Other factors include your firm’s reputation on technology, geographic location, practice areas and clientele.
I would not attempt to “mobilize” a whole website. Give careful thought to what parts of your site make sense to turn into a mobile version. A blog is an obvious choice. It’s a regular source of news and updates that someone might return to on a regular basis on a mobile phone. The news pages of your site, contact pages, other short pages of useful information and any RSS feeds make great test cases.
There are several ways to create mobile-optimized versions of your webpages. You can pick up the phone and call your Web designers to discuss what they can do for you. I suggest starting with simple, inexpensive projects and mobile pages that simply reuse or repurpose current material.
However, you can start on your own. When I recently created a mobile version of my blog, I literally went from typing a search into Google (“create mobile version of blog”) to having two mobile versions of my website in 15 minutes at no out-of-pocket cost.
I’ll mention the two services I used, but there are several other methods. These services work very well with blogs.
MoFuse.com gets a lot of mentions in this area, and my experience was great. You sign up for an account (one for blogs, and a premium one with extra features for businesses), enter information about your site, click a button or two and you have a mobile version.
I also used a tool Google has developed known as the Google Mobilizer. It uses your RSS feed and takes just a few minutes.
In both cases, nothing is chang-ing on your website or blog. Your content is repurposed and converted into a mobile format using a third-party service. You then point mo-bile users to the URL for the mobile page.
You can make some format changes and customization, but it’s pretty basic. Does that matter? Not for me—people are reading on a cell phone screen, after all. They are interested in content. At the mobile version of my blog, people see the headlines of the posts and then can click through to read the full post.
Be aware of a couple of concerns about hosted services for mobile pages.
A hosted service can have outages, performance issues or even go out of business. Also, your mobile page will not be on your own domain, as you will notice from my blog’s MoFuse URL. I simply provide a link on my blog to the mobile version. For some firms, this might be a branding or control issue, but for individual lawyers and small firms, simplicity and other benefits will probably outweigh any other concerns.
It’s surprisingly easy to get yourself onto cell phone screens with your existing content, especially if you have a blog or RSS feed. We’re moving to mobile. Shouldn’t you be there too?