History is littered with once-thriving businesses that lost out because they dug in their heels and didn't adapt to technology. Now I don't want to scare you, but those of you who are just now congratulating yourself on your company finally launching its desktop-accessible web site need to take a look at these stats:
- 72 percent of all newly-acquired devices are now smartphones.
- There are now more than 1 billion smartphones in use worldwide, with forecasts of an additional 1 billion more within about three years.
And they're not buying those devices for better texting. One in three minutes spent online is done on mobile devices - and that number is growing every day. In fact, according to Google research, if you don't have a mobile site or it's not optimized for smartphones in some way, 61% of visitors will return to Google to find a site that is easily readable on a mobile device.
So the question is not if, but when and how, you should start planning the mobile strategy for your business. Keep in mind that consumers want the same site experience on their smartphones as they would get with a desktop. They don't want to just see a brochure version of the desktop site-they want a relevant, personalized, coherent brand experience. A positive experience builds customer trust, which builds better relationships.
So what route should you take? Start by asking yourself a few questions:
- What are your business objectives? Specifically, how do you do business with your customers? (For example, do you use email notifications for a good part of your business? If so, be aware that if emails are not optimized for mobile—the images are too wide, etc.—it's going to result in a big bounce rate.)
- What are the costs and benefits for your business?
- What do you want your consumers to do when they come into contact with your business from a mobile device, and what must you provide to get them to take that action?
- What is the best route for your company in regard to mobile?
In this blog, I'll discuss a few of the advantages and disadvantages of three options available for "going mobile." (The list is by no means complete.)
Creating a mobile version of your site
A mobile version of a site is a website that has been specifically designed and built for mobile devices that can be accessed via the mobile web on any mobile device.
Some advantages of having a mobile version of the site are:
- Improved user experience. Mobile sites are made to look and perform better on mobile devices.
- Faster page loads. And, because one of the things that drive people away from a site, mobile or otherwise, is if it's slow, faster page loads translate into longer visits.
- Consistent branding: Provides a consistent look and feel for your business.
Some disadvantages of having a mobile version of the site are:
- More complicated design. Your mobile website must be designed to work on all mobile devices.
- More content management. A mobile site would require that you choose which information from your website will be included and how it should be presented.
- Poorer web browsing. A smartphone may offer convenience because of its size, but it doesn't offer the best Web browsing experience.
- Unreliable connectivity: Mobile Internet Protocol is still less reliable than the regular Internet protocol.
- May cause poorer SEO: Some say if you have different urls for your mobile and desktop versions, you're going to take a hit since search engines will interpret the data as duplicate content. However, SEO could actually improve because a mobile website does better on mobile-friendly search engines than a desktop version does.
Creating a mobile app for your site
A mobile app is an application that a user downloads onto, and that resides on, a mobile device.Advantages:
- Higher success: Mobile apps traditionally have higher success rates than websites.
- Content facility: They come with fully loaded content
- Tracking: You can add in tracking to discover the actions of the user and make decisions based on that.
- Limited reach: An application has limited reach as different apps are required for different platforms (such as iPhone or Android). Expensive: The cost to build an app can be high. Even low-priced developers price these services to start at $1,000.
- Maintenance time. A mobile app has to be maintained and updated.
Responsive web design (RWD)
With RWD you don't have separate mobile, tablet, and PC versions of your site. Instead, your site adapts to whatever size screen it's being displayed on. Although it's still in its infancy, many experts believe RWD will become the industry standard. (Click here to see a more thorough breakdown of mobile apps vs. RWD)Advantages
- No duplicate content: You don't have to worry about duplicate content's effect on SEO. A responsively-designed website means that content is only in one place.
- Google recommends RWD. That means your site will show up before other mobile sites in a search.
- Manageable cost: The cost of creating and managing a website is quite manageable for all site owners.
Responsive web design relies heavily on CSS media queries to be compatible on a wide range of devices. However, most mobile devices are not compatible with CSS media queries.
Doesn't work well with sites that have a lot of content. RWD resizes images to the mobile device's screen. The full image is downloaded on a mobile device and resized to fit the screen, which consumes unnecessary CPU and RAM. (NYT) The setup will take a lot of your engineers' time.
Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.