Right at this moment what do you think your customers are doing? Go on, have a guess. They could, of course, be in their office. Or they might be on the train. They could be having a swim, eating a snack, downloading something they shouldn’t or kissing their loved ones. Who knows what they might be doing. But there is one thing you can be sure of – none of them will be doing exactly the same thing. The activities of your website visitors will all be different.
For instance, as I write this I am imagining that you are sitting at your desk in a nice brightly-lit office, with a large mug of steaming coffee by your side, reading this on a large PC screen. Of course, you might be getting this blog post via email on your Blackberry on the train. And there’s also the possibility you’ll be reading the RSS feed on your iPad as you wait outside the school gates for your youngsters. Or – none of the above…! After all, some people get my blog as a weekly PDF which they download and print. So you could be reading this in the bath, trying not to get the pages soggy….! So, in all honesty I have no idea how or where you are reading this.
But what I do know is that few website owners take into account the multitude of ways in which their readers will be using their sites. In print, you rarely had to take this into account. Other than needing bigger type for older readers, it didn’t matter much whether a book was read on a plane, in the bath, on a bus, in bed or while watching TV with one eye. But with the Internet, you do need to take into account the environment in which people will encounter your page. It matters because there will be different screen sizes and different technologies involved which could impact upon the way in which your website is viewed.
Nowadays, more and more people access websites using mobile technologies. This Christmas shopping season will see a raft of new mobile “tablet” devices on sale to rival the iPad. Then there is the growing range of smartphones. And you can view web pages on ebook readers, like the Amazon Kindle, as well as on games players like Playstation. Even though most people access websites on a PC or laptop. there is an exponential rise in the numbers of your customers and potential clients who will be using other devices. (See Quantcast Report below.)
It is interesting then to read that a survey of over 500 British businesses conducted by the web hosting company 1&1 has found that over half of them have no idea what their website looks like on a mobile device. Worse, almost two thirds say they have no plans at all to make their website mobile compatible. That is a jaw-dropping admission on the part of small businesses in the UK. It is the same as saying something like “even though most people want to go shopping during daylight hours, we have no plans to open our shop other than during the night-time”. In other words, British business is saying to web users, “tough – we’re not going to provide a website you can use – unless you do it the way we say…OK!”
Failure to provide mobile versions of websites could cost business dear. With dramatically increasing visitor rates from mobiles, with larger numbers of mobile devices being developed and sold, there is little doubt that significant numbers of people will want to access your website when they are away from their desktop computer.
An easy way is to get your website on Mobify. This will allow you to produce a version of your website which loads quickly onto mobiles and is reasonable to look at on small screens. Mobify then gives you a short piece of code you add to your main website which redirects people to the mobile version if they are accessing your web pages from a handheld device. If you take a look at my mobile site http://m.grahamjones.co.uk you’ll see it doesn’t look pretty on a PC, but if you access via a mobile phone it becomes easier to use. You can also check out http://www.grahamjones.mobi – an alternative version which works better on larger devices, such as a Dell Streak. True, I need to pretty them up a bit…however, it does mean my site is accessible on mobile devices.
If Mobify isn’t for you, check out this blog post on 11 different ways to make your site mobile. And if you want to see what your site looks like on an iPad, use iPad Peek to take a look. Also, 1&1 offer mobile design software as part of some of their hosting packages.
But whatever you do – do something. You cannot afford to be like the half of UK businesses identified by 1&1 who do not know what their websites even look like on a mobile. Not knowing that could mean that your readers will reject your site and never return. Remember, earlier this year, Google announced it was a “mobile first” company, developing everything for mobiles first, rather than as an afterthought. How much attention do you pay to your mobile visitors?