There are 4 billion phone users globally. One billion of that are smartphones. 160,000 phones are activated every day. Browsing the web on a mobile device is on the rise and is something all communication plans need to consider. As part of your digital strategy you need to think about how you are going to talk to this market. Below are four ways you can mobilize your website.
1. Create an HTML site.
For the most part, all smart phones have a native browser that allows them to view websites. If you build your site without using plugins like Flash and instead using CSS based markup then you stand a good chance of your site being viewable. This isn’t ideal as your initial view is a tiny site on a 3 inch screen but at least the user can zoom in and generally get around. If you are using div tags then it allows some browsers the ability to double tap a column to zoom into that width. Where this makes more sense is on a tablet where the screen is much bigger.
2. Create a mobile-friendly site
This will take it a step further. When a user hits your site with a mobile device you can pull up a different style sheet that is geared towards that user. It’s still the same site but with big bold text and fat finger buttons. Say good bye to zooming in and out or having to use up half your data plan to download a banner you can’t see.
You can put in multiple style sheets to further enhance the experience by displaying content in different ways per device. Why not have one for a phone, another one for a tablet and a third for a desktop? You can even have different style sheets for what way you are tilting your phone.
3. Create a custom
The next step is to create a site specifically for a phone user. I am a firm believer that a user on a phone is not the same user that is on a desktop. You have different needs when you are moble. Your screen is smaller, it’s harder to type, you’re probably standing or walking, you are distracted etc. etc. Information needs to be faster, simpler and relevant. Are people likely to read the three page “about us” section? Probably not. Are they likely to want maps and phone numbers? Chances are better at least. By putting yourself in a mobile point of view it’s a great way to tailor that experience. The only “gotcha” is to make sure they can switch back to the regular HTML view if you are hiding content. Nothing is more frustrating than knowing that you can’t get to something due to a redirect. Remember that the goal of this is to make life easier.
4. Create an application
This is the Cadillac of mobile development. The decision as to when you create an app vs. a custom mobile site is generally when you want to take advantage of the hardware and software on the phone i.e. the GPS, camera, contact list, gyroscope etc. An app gives you much more control and allows you to create complex games or software that can seamlessly work with applications already installed on the device. The drawback here is cost of development and the fact that the user has to install the application first before they can interact.
Now however with the use of HTML5 and the Device API you can actually take control of your device with a regular browser. Does this mean the death of apps? It means something that’s for sure. Take a look – here is an example of a site using the gyroscope: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hqVcLpsO728 and using the camera: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jqXo-AEVhK4. Crazy.