A lot of website owners, and even some web designers, ignore a very important demographic: the mobile user. How user-friendly is your site to those viewing from mobile devices?
For those who don’t have a phone or other handheld that allows them to surf the web, this is an important consideration that is easily overlooked. For those of us who turn to our phones for just about everything, it is a fact we’re reminded of by every other website we visit.
Think no one is going to visit your site from their phone? Think again. Lots of visitors do, and in growing numbers. There are a lot of websites out there that are astonishingly behind the times.
Depending on your site, needs, and audience, having a mobile-ready website may be easy or may involve a lot of extra work. You may be able to just use your existing website just fine. Or you may need to make a mobile version of your site that easily accessed by phones and handhelds.
Not sure what to look at to determine if you have a mobile ready website? Here are a few things for website owners and web designers to keep in mind when creating or updating your site.
Is your website in Flash or are you planning Flash? Not to belabor the “Flash is evil” issue, but it is an important point to bear in mind. Most phones don’t show Flash. Your audience using iPhones certainly won’t see it and the iPhone still dominates the mobile marketplace. Only parts of your site use Flash? This might be ok. Just make sure it isn’t involved in anything critical like your website’s navigation.
Speaking of navigation, some of that won’t work so hot either. Some tricks to handle lots of pages in the navigation, and fancy navigation effects, may or may not show on some mobile devices. Consider adding links at the bottom and top of pages that allow visitors to jump up and down a page, and easily move back and forth from navigation to main content.
Does your text adjust depending on the size the page is viewed at? Or is it stuck at the same size no matter what device is being used to see the site?
Long pages with lots of scrolling tend to annoy visitors, and even more so with the mobile surfer. Consider “back to top” links strategically placed down the page. Or see if you can break a page up into several pages.
How long does the page take to download? Mobile devices take a while to download websites and the bigger your pages, the longer your (impatient) visitor waits. I’m sure by now you are all familiar with the Back button? Phones have them too. Lots of images and various other factors can increase your page size and your visitors can give up and hit Back.
These are just some of the things you’ll want to look into. Your best bet is to just start viewing your site on as many phones as you can. When you see friends and family with theirs, ask if you can take a look at your site for a moment. Make note of the make and model phone you are using and any problems you see with the site. Another option is mobile device emulators. Also, the site MobiReady allows you to enter your website and see how well it would perform for various phones.
An experienced web designer may also be able to look at your site and let you know what will and won’t work for mobile devices. Just be prepared to either make a mobile version of your site or overhaul it entirely. Not everyone will need only a few simple corrections to get their site ready for their mobile visitors.
Mobile Web Best Practices 1.0, Basic Guidelines, W3C Recommendation 29 July 2008