Jun
26
Minneapolis

TECHNOLOGY: Mobile-friendly sites are a must in today’s smartphone world

Hoping to grow your business this year?

 Better make sure your website is mobile-enabled or your best laid plans might just go out the window—perhaps along with your entire business.  Think I’m exaggerating? An estimated 60 percent of all web traffic now occurs over a mobile device and that number is expected to keep heading north.

Beyond the implications for building mobile-friendly websites and appsthis seismic shift in how people are accessing and using the web has led to dramatic changes in Google’s search algorithms.

Google’s rationale? Mobile users deserve to easily get “relevant, high-quality search results that are optimized for their devices.” This means Google’s search results now favor smartphone-ready sites that include large text that is easy to read on small screens, well-spaced links and mobile-friendly plug-ins.

“This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and have a significant impact in our search results,” Google posted in February on its Webmaster Central blog.

Why should you care? Being at the top matters—a  lot.  The first five Google search results get nearly 70 percent of the traffic.  To put it bluntly: if your business website does not meet Google’s mobile-friendly requirements, you will appear to no longer exist in the mostly mobile-accessed online world.

Only one-fifth are mobile

And now the really surprising news: only one-fifth of small- and medium-sized U.S. businesses reported having a mobile-friendly website in the National Small Business Administration’s 2013 technology survey (and a shocking 18 percent reported having no website at all!).

Ready to get serious about a mobile-friendly web site? It’s not as overwhelming as you might think. We ask our clients to begin by thinking about which aspects of their business would lend themselves best to mobile. From there, we recommend starting small and implementing the easiest parts first.

Typically, we ask clients—many of whom are business-to-business firms or government agencies—if they want to start with a mobile-enabled site that easily scrolls up and down, or if specific mobile-enabled applications are a better mobile kicking off place.

For many B2B enterprises, mobile apps make the most sense because their customers do not typically find them through a Google search anyway. However, making it easy to do business on a mobile device can strengthen valuable B2B relationships and increase customer satisfaction.

A good example is a custom mobile app our team created for a home improvement chain. The app enables the retailer to give customers a simple receipt in the outdoor inventory area with a bar code for scanning by cashiers at the front of the store.

It’s quick and easy to check out and the retailer does not have to hassle with hand-written lists or manual inventory updates.

Other organizations have existing applications but they are not web-enabled. In those situations, web developers can provide updated code to allow the applications to run easily on the web when accessed from a mobile device.

This was the case with a financial services customer we serve, which had a mission-critical custom application for use on a desktop. It was a web application, that is delivered over the web, to a user’s desktop via a browser.

Intertech repackaged the app to make it easier to see and use on a mobile browser, a change that made working remotely much easier for the companies’ employees.

Begin at the beginning

The best case, of course, is having mobile in mind from the beginning. A mobile-enabled website costs a little more to build because it requires multiple versions or presentation layers.

This is necessary so the pages will scale appropriately, depending on whether they are displayed on a desktop, smart pad or smart phone.  It’s more expensive, however, to go back after the fact and retrofit an old, non-mobile site.

While mobile-enabled sites and applications used to be an afterthought, savvy businesses now are making mobile a priority from day one. They understand that, just like building a house today that you may want to expand tomorrow, building a mobile-friendly site requires doing things a little differently.

With mobile development, we start with the logic required to make content most usable on a four- or five-inch screen.

Since that is the most restrictive amount of space, it’s important to ensure content is easy to read and intuitive to access on the small screen where all your users have to work with is their thumbs.

Engaging a usability expert is another smart strategy for ensuring that your site and related apps are as intuitive, efficient and user-friendly as possible.

For many B2B organizations, starting with mobile apps makes the most sense, particularly if their end-user needs to be able to access small bits of information quickly, such as an order status.

When a business needs customers to provide large amounts of data, such as 150-question mortgage applications, a link to a downloadable PDF from the website is more realistic.

Apps for business-to-consumer enterprises now are the norm versus the exception. A recent news story about Caribou launching a phone-pay mobile app began this way: “From the better-late-than-never department: Caribou Coffee Co. is launching its first mobile app giving customers a more convenient pay option.”

Ouch!

Don’t let your business fall into the “better late than never” camp. Embrace the power of mobile applications and mobile-enabled websites before your business disappears from cyber space, never to be seen or engaged with again.

Tom Salonek

Intertech
INTERTECH

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