Tampa Web Designers, What Are Your Considerations of Developing a Mobile Version of a Website?

March 27 2011

The mobile internet revolution is here to stay. With the advent of tablets and smart phones, and their increasing popularity, it’s a no-brainer to have a mobile version of your website. Web designers are now becoming much better at integrating mobile versions of the website, or creating a whole new site for mobile users.

There are two trains of thought when web designers plan a project. Do they make the website mobile-friendly, or provide a completely different site especially for mobile users? Both trains of thought have merit, but which is most suitable?

It’s important to first think about motivation. The average mobile internet user is on a fixed bandwidth tariff, and will be surfing for a different purpose that if they were sitting at a desktop.

Desktop surfers have the opportunity to enjoy rich content, to take their time and download larger pages. Mobile users are generally accessing the internet for a reason. To find directions, to check a price, to find something out. So the motivation often differs between the two mediums.

So the next question is about the specific site in question. Will it have something mobile users are likely to need while on the move?

For some sites, simply removing images, and value-add content is enough to make it mobile friendly. Making it scalable to screen size, lighter on bandwidth and adding prominent features first are just some of the things a good mobile website will utilize.

For example, a mobile user visiting a particular site is probably going to want to see a search function, or contact details up front. This is especially true if the website is a more local, or business-oriented one. So it makes sense to put this up front so it’s immediately visible.

Then you can provide the option to surf further if they want to. This is important. We can predict what most mobile users are going to want, but not all of them. The point of any web design is to make the site a nice place to be, and to keep the visitor there as long as possible. This remains true on a mobile site, doubly so if it’s ecommerce.

There is also a case for building a completely different website design for mobile. If you think the needs of the mobile audience will be so different to that of other users, a new design may offer the best for the client. That enables you to remove irrelevant content, graphics, styling and bandwidth heavy page elements.

It also allows you to order the elements into the likely demands of the mobile audience. Such as, putting those contact details or search barfirst, simplifying navigation, and using a mobile specific URL.

The main thing to remember when designing a mobile-centric website, is to allow the user to access the standard site if they want to. Excluding them from the standard website doesn’t go down too well. The mobile internet is about choice, so make sure your design offers it.

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