Adapting for Mobiles and Tablets

Optimising a Micro-business Website for Mobile Phones and Other Devices

Most websites are built to be viewed on a desktop computer, which isn’t very helpful if you’re actually trying to read it on a mobile device such as an iPhone or other smartphone, or a tablet such as an iPad.

Optimising for mobile devices presents an opportunity for many micro-businesses, but they need to know how to take advantage of it.

First of all, think about how you use your own smartphone, if you have one. Speed is of the essence and you want to be able to read what you find.

You’re also unlikely to make a purchase directly from the phone, you’ll probably use it mainly for searching and then purchase in a different way, such as via a desktop or laptop computer, or phoning the company or going into their shop.

So how does a micro-business take advantage? The following areas will give you some guidance.

How your Customers Use a Mobile Device

Mobiles are often used for local searches (such as a plumber or a restaurant) or to find out general info on a topic (such as the answer to a pub quiz question). They can also be used in a retail environment in a practise known as ‘showrooming’, which is looking for a cheaper provider of the product they are currently looking at in the shop.

If you have a good understanding of how people purchase your product then you can work out how they might use a smartphone in conjunction with the products or services your micro-business provides. You can find out more about this in Customer Purchasing Processes.

If your micro-business is a good candidate for a local provider then read Developing a Search Engine Approach for more details on how to take advantage of this.

Providing the Right Information

You have three broad options for how you present information to viewers on a smartphone:

  • Present the same website as is given to everyone else.
  • Build a mobile-friendly website to run alongside your existing one.
  • Create an app. ‘App’ is short for ‘application’ and is, in effect, a computer program that someone would download to their mobile in order to access services from your business.

The decision on which to use depends on user behaviour and what they expect from your organisation.

Apps are useful if someone uses a service regularly. So if you provided equipment for the building industry, for example, then a builder or plumber could use an app to find the right specification for the job they were doing (such as particular sizes) and then purchase it directly from the app. In these circumstances the user is likely to be happy to download the app to their phone as they will use it regularly and it provides something useful for them.

But if they don’t buy regularly from you and it doesn’t add any value to what they could get from any website, then they won’t download it and instead will go to someone else who meets their needs better.

Mobile-friendly Websites

Most websites are built using lots of graphics, often at the top and on the left hand side of every page. So if you look at it on a mobile you will see an image for a long time, waiting for something to happen. You will not want to have to scroll around the page looking for the information you want, meaning you will leave and go somewhere else. If your bounce rates as measured via Google Analytics start to show an increase for no apparent reason, this could be what’s happening (read Using Google Analytics for more details on this).

If your website displays quickly and well when viewed on a mobile then you might not need to do anything else. But if it doesn’t, consider building a mobile-friendly website to run alongside your main website.

A mobile-friendly website is specifically designed so that it works – or renders – well when viewed on a smartphone or other mobile device, such as a tablet. When a visitor comes to your site, it detects the type of device they are using and delivers the most appropriate version of the website for them. A desktop user gets the desktop version, a visitor from a smartphone or tablet gets the mobile-friendly version. This is sometimes referred to as ‘responsive design’ because the user gets a version of the site which ‘responds’ to the type of device they are using.

If you had a restaurant or pub, for example, you could build a mobile-friendly website so that if I were viewing it on a mobile I would be quickly presented with options for Opening Times, Menu and Location – the main things I would want to know. So no messing around, just straight to the details I need. The desktop-based site could still be very glossy and attractive though.

Look at BBC News to see how it works, firstly on a desktop, then again on your mobile.