More and more people are living their life on the go, using mobile devices to keep upto date whilst on the move, and although some social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter have adapted well to this shift away from the desktop, many other webmasters are slow to follow suit. This article hopes to outline the ever increasing importance of mobile device compatible websites, and the various approaches you as a business can take to implimenting one.

Before going too much further, I want to make sure that you know what I mean when I am talking about a “mobile device” – many assume smartphone, and while that is true, they are far from being the only way people access their online data.

Mobile devices include:

  • Mobile Phones/Smart Phones (iPhone, Android, Blackberry etc)
  • Tablets (iPad, Android, Blackerry etc)
  • Handheld game consoles (3DS, PSP, etc)
  • PDA’s
  • Notebooks

Basically any device that travels with you regularly, and allows you to access the internet is a mobile device and when we talk about “mobile compatible websites” we are talking about a website that has been designed to work specifcally on these mobile devices with their small screens and various screen sizes and graphic constrants.

Most of the companies that will look at the information on this site are small to medium in size. Many aren’t big enough to be employing people in-house to look after their website design and so are dependent on the knowledge and experience of 3rd parties to help them with their website projects. Many are also initially reluctant to produce mobile compatible websites. I think there are two main reasons for this:

  • Ignorance or denial
  • Cost (Which when you look closer, falls into the ignorance category)

I would just like to point out that I am not being rude by using the term ‘ignorance’, it isn’t used as an insult, it is purely that many companies don’t know the ins and outs of mobile website design, because they simply don’t need to, and probably don’t want to – it’s not what they need to know.

It’s the same reason people will use a garage or trusted machanic to service and maintain their car, or a vet to treat their animals – they don’t need to know the in’s and out’s of what is done for their daily life, but it is something that needs doing so they take their car or pet to someone who knows what they’re doing.

Again, it isn’t that businesses don’t know or aren’t aware of the existence, or maybe even the importance of mobile website design, most probably take advantage of it themselves when using social media or checking things out when they are on the move on their own mobile devices, and those that don’t do it themselves are bound to have sons and daughters or other relatives or friends that seem to live with a mobile phone permanently in their eye line, but they may not realise just how many people are browsing the internet on mobile devices and the rate at which it’s growing.

Or they are simply in denial, thinking ‘Our customers aren’t going to be looking at our website on their mobiles’ or ‘We don’t need to worry about that yet and the simple truth is this just isn’t true anymore, this is the time when you DO need to worry about this growing potential market.

Whilst researching this article the author came across some predictions suggesting that in 2015, more people will be browsing the web on mobile devices, than will be using a standard computer/laptop as we have for the past several decades. Personally, the author isn’t sure, 2015 seems to be still a long way away, and judging by the number of people, even in rural areas that seem to browse online using a mobile device, they think it may be even earlier then that.

But if we assume that the predictions mentioned in the research are correct, and that it will be 2015 that the “cross over” comes into play, that us less then 26 months before more people will be viewing your website on mobile devices than full size devices. But even before that you can’t forget the already huge numbers of people who are using mobile devices, or the fact that the rate that number is growing by day after day you can start to see why it is a mistake to ignore this potentially massive audience.

The avarage “lifespan” of a well built website is typically 3-5 years – after this it can start to look dated and tired. So looking ahead, if you are building a new website (or are thinking of a new website) now, that gives you a potentially huge mobile based audience in the next 3-5 year time span, excluding that audience of potential customers by not offering mobile compatibility, or by reducing their ability to get around your website by forcing them to view a full size website on their mobile device would be a very bad move.

As I mentioned previously, cost is another factor I touched on. In difficult ecomnomic climates, the cost of a whole new website might be a frightening prospect to small businesses that aren’t doing so well, but the right website design company will be able to explain the additional costs of mobile compatibility, but more importantly, will explain the additional value for money and increased user experience that comes along with it. A well planned, well designed and developed website that is compatible with mobile devices can be a priceless tool for your business.

There are several ways you can impliment a mobile compatible website:

  • You can redesign your main website using “responsive design” which looks at the width of the display that is being used and formats the output of the webpage accordingly, in laymans terms it works out how your site can be best displayed for that device and sends the data.
  • You can have effectively two websites one of which is served if the user is using a static device (PC/Laptop) and the other that is served to users that are using a mobile device.(this is determined by the “device type ID” and your server sends the right site accordingly). – for example
  • You can have your website and get a mobile device “app” made to allow mobile users to interact with your business.

Advances in how mobile website are built in the future and their capabilities are exciting and will be on-going as with all technologies, but that doesn’t mean you can afford to waitas your mobile audience has already arrived and is hungry for more and more information on the go, all the time.