The Mobile Web - your website has gone mobile but has its design?

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So you think your website is doing just fine in its current form, but could it do better? The growth in the amount of searches ocurring on mobile devices has been significant and has taken a few people and organisations by surprise.

The implications for business of this growth in mobile browsing are far reaching, there is evidence that mobile traffic is in addition to desktop traffic, rather than replacing it. Furthermore, the intentions of mobile visitors can be more immediate and transaction driven. This has led a lot of businesses to tailor the mobile version of their website in order to meet this need.

Mobile Website Design Considerations

For a lot of website owners, the most important aspects of their website are those aspects with which they themselves interact, such as how it looks and performs on a full desktop or laptop. And although most of us are aware of the massive uptake of mobile devices, it can sometimes be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that these devices are only used for applications and phone calls, games and socialising. It is easy to fall into the mindset that if someone wants to look for your business they are bound to do it from a full sized computer with a screen resolution that fits your site.

But are you overlooking a growing trend and failing to make your website available in the best light for these mobile devices? Well its another issue of compatibility. Designers will spend a good bit of time checking that a standard full sized website is compatible across the majority of browsers which run on the different operating systems out there. From Explorer and Firefox through to Chrome and Safari amongst others. In our experience cross-device compatibility is just as important. If your site isn't easy to use on a mobile browser, this is just the same as it being unusable on a desktop or laptop.

Mobile versus Desktop & Laptop Traffic

The table below shows an illustration of monthly global traffic for a handful of keywords from Google's Keyword research tools. Although only indicative, the percentage of mobile traffic is nonetheless significant. If the suggestions of intent mentioned above are true, then mobile traffic may represent a more valuable source of traffic on a one-for-one basis as those mobile visitors are likely to want to conclude a transaction within a smaller window of time i.e. on the move.

Mobile Versus Desktop & Laptop Searches Oct 2011
Search PhraseMobile DevicesDesktops and Laptops
LCD TV550,0006,120,000
Hotel in London301,0004,190,000
Gite in France27,1001,220,000
Comfortable Shoes18,100135,000

Source: Google keyword research - Global Monthly Searches by Keyword

Data on actual mobile versus desktop browsing varies, but estimates put the ratio of mobile to desktop browsing at 6%-10%, and rising.

Make Your Website Work for Mobile

At the end of the day, a mobile visitor is still a visitor. Of course existing websites will still be found on mobile devices, but are they easily navigable? And do they look good on mobile phones, tablets and other small screen devices. Of crucial importance is whether or not your website encourages mobile visitors to revisit your site later on their home computer. Mobile traffic counts towards your total traffic, and the fundamental objective of any business website is to attract traffic.

There are various steps that can be taken to make your website mobile compatible. From users agent detection, which switches to a mobile version of your website when it detects a mobile browser, through to more considered web design, such as columnar layouts which are designed for mobile features such as tap and zoom on touch devices.

So if you are likely to have a reasonable portion of traffic coming for mobile devices, or if you just want to future-proof your website, it is worth looking at how your web pages render on mobile devices, and whether or not your site delivers the user experience that it should. With all of the big players in search making a big push towards delivering mobile services and apps the evidence of the growth in mobile browsing habits is apparent.

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