Should you be investing in your website to make it more ‘mobile friendly’?
The simple answer is undoubtedly YES. The market for smartphones and tablets is exploding. A study on cell phone usage by the Pew Research Center, published in the spring of 2011, stated: “One third of American adults (35%) own a smartphone of some kind, and these users take advantage of a wide range of their phones’ capabilities. . . . eight in ten use their phone to go online.” By October of the same year, a Nielson study claimed, while “only [italics mine] 43 percent of all US mobile phone subscribers own a smartphone . . . the vast majority of those under the age of 44 now have smartphones. In fact, 62 percent of mobile adults aged 25-34 report owning smartphones. And among those 18-24 and 35-44 years old the smartphone penetration rate is hovering near 54 percent.”
But how bad is your site right now? What do you need to do to make it better? And what’s it going to cost in time and money?
I’ve been arguing to friends and colleagues that needing to answer these questions was a GREAT excuse for buying one of the hot new tablet computers (iPad, Nook, or KindleFire just to name a few) as a legitimate business expense. And I still think that’s a good idea — the only way to begin to understand the mobile user is to try out the world from his or her perspective. If you don’t have a smartphone yourself then a tablet can be a great substitute — with no expensive data plan driving up the long term price.
But, in the meantime, here’s a great resource that popped into my inbox today. It’s a website that can SHOW you, right now, for free, what your current site looks like on a smartphone and help you evaluate how much or little trouble you are in. The site, HowToGoMo.com seems to be a Google offshoot. It’s got a fair amount of easily digestible why’s and how’s but the coolest bit is the site tester page. It takes a minute to process the URL you give it but then it shows you exactly what your site will look like on a smartphone!
If you are lucky, chances are your site looks ok, just very small, as mine does above — not pretty but at least zoomable. If you are not lucky (read: your site uses Flash animation), you may find the simulated phone screen just . . . sad and empty. (Yes, that image is from a real test of a real, production website. A silly, fun page on a business website that just happens to use Flash animation to provide an online, Mr.-Potato-Head-like game: http://www.mono-1.com/
I’ll be writing more about this topic over the next several weeks as I prepare to give a talk at the next Wyoming Idea Expo.