Website Optimisation for Smart Mobile Phones
Hertfordshire (Herts) Web Designers since 1999 - over 10 years of Web Design Experience
With the new breed of smart phones it is worth considering how your website works on mobile phones.
Time was when you needed a separate website for mobile phones and there were lots of issues with different phones handling web browsing differently so for most small companies it was not practical to worry about mobile phones. However there is more standardisation now than there was and a lot more people using their phones to connect to the internet.
The smart phones (Android phones, iPhones, BlackBerrys, Windows phones) now take the view that they will browse the standard version of your website unless you redirect them to a mobile version.
The big difference is the screen size
It is quite likely that your website will work on these smart phones (particularly if it uses modern coding standards and doesn't go in for too many gimics) without needing any significant changes. There are still technology issues for example:
- iPhones do not handle flash at all
- fancy effects like drop down menus tend not to work well
- most images on your website are likely to be too large for the small screens as they are not shrunk by default
but putting these technology problems aside the smart mobile phones do an excellent job of browsing most websites. However the screen size (combined with the touch screen method of selecting links etc.) is the problem and can make it impractical to use your site effectively on a mobile phone. I appreciate there is the initial "wow" factor as people see the whole website as intended on the small screen, then zoom and pinch etc which is part of the the new technology experience. However this first impression feeling soon is overtaken by the frustration of scrolling particularly horizontally when you have the text large enough to read but then only have a small window on the screen.
So what can be done to optimise my website for mobile phones?
Various options are available:
- Leave the site as is just sorting out alternatives for any mobile phone presentation problems like Flash.
- If your website is standards based and uses CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) rather than tables for presentation then it is quite likely that an alternative CSS presentation can be created just for the smart mobile phones with little impact on your existing site. Everything working off the one set of content. It may even be possible to exclude specific blocks of content for mobiles.
- If your website is based on Wordpress then you can probably use some purpose built plugins plus a theme specially designed for mobiles with very little effort.
- A separate version of your website could be created specifically for mobiles.
- A product such as goMobi can be used to provide a separate set of web pages associated to your website. The product is available for a modest monthly fee from some hosting companies like Heart Internet. It provides a standard set of web pages based on templates designed for mobile phones.
Do you want to provide all of the content on your main website to mobile browsers?
Smart phones take the view that they will browse (by default) a website just like a standard pc or laptop would so getting the full internet experience rather than a poor imitation. So unless something is done on the website to change this they see the site as a large screen pc sees it (subject to some technology issues). But is that sensible for your website?
What are your mobile browsers likely to want from your site? We are still in the early days of mobile browsing and there are varying views on this. For example:
- Mobile sites need to be brief, easy to navigate, fast loading (there are download speed issues) and allow the browser to get to what they want with as few clicks as possible - all on a tiny screen. Mobile browsers are unlikely to be looking for any in-depth material, or want to read much, or look at large pictures, or animations. So, if this is right we want a stripped down, no frills version of your site with only the briefest of content.
- Mobile browsers want to see everything they can see on a PC or Laptop on their phone but it has to work well on a small screen.
Personally I think it is too early to know as most people do not yet use mobile phones to surf the net and it is likely to depend on the website. For Smart Mobile Phones: for my main website (this one) I have gone down the path of providing (almost) all the same content but turning a 3 column page presentation into a one column presentation. For my blog I have gone for a minimalist presentation just providing titles of the latest posts so they can be read with the minimun of frills.
What about apps?
Apps turn the normal web proposition inside out. Normally we use a standard generic browser to surf the internet and web pages compete for your interest by design, search engine optimisation and marketing.
If you download and use an app it captures your full attention and excludes the competition. They are purpose built and features work as programmed. They concentrate specifically on providing functionality purpose built for use on a mobile phone. They are not websites but offer an alternative approach.
Epsilis - Web Designers
47 Farthing Drive
Letchworth Garden City
Need help with web design?
Having been web designers in Hertfordshire since 1999 we have extensive knowledge and experience of creating effective web sites. We can guide you through this process and design a website you will be proud of.
Call Michael Spencer on 01462 674840 or email
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