The Help Desk: Are mobile-friendly websites worth it?
Welcome to the Help Desk, Alberta Venture’s workplace advice column. Every month, we tackle a business question from a reader by getting advice from experts. Whether you’re trying to find the right employee, hook your business up with the latest technology or tweak your marketing strategy, we’re here to lend a hand.
by Alberta Venture Staff
Q: My company just designed a great new website, but one of the members of our team suggested we need a mobile-friendly version. Is it worth the time and expense?
A: In a word: yes. When your potential customers browse your site on their smartphone (Apple, Android, BlackBerry et al.), can they find your contact information, your hours and what you’re selling quickly? Or is their tiny screen filled with your even tinier text and slow-loading images? Is the information they’re looking for buried in a subpage somewhere? Or worse, is your site Flash-based and as a result invisible to more than a third of mobile users? If so, that could be a problem.
The Adobe Digital Index found that in Canada in 2012, 15.5 per cent of web traffic came from mobile phones and tablets, and that number is going to increase – substantially. “There are more people using smartphones than desktop computers,” says David Bailey, one of the owners of Monolith, an Edmonton-based web design and marketing firm that’s focused on mobile products. “We’ve grown accustomed to instant gratification, so if all a person has is their mobile device and they can’t find you, or your site presents barriers, they may move on to the next site.”
So how do push your site into mobile bliss? Assuming you don’t have the money to hire a company like Monolith to do it for you, you can still set up a mobile-friendly site relatively simply. Content management systems like Drupal and WordPress have plugins or modules that can help you make your website play nice with smartphones, and some website providers, like Squarespace, provide responsive themes that automatically adapt to mobile viewing. “For a company with a very limited budget, maybe you want to start with only a simple page or two optimized for mobile,” says Bailey.
The good news is that the key to a great mobile website is simple – simplicity. Legible text, a rectangular orientation (think smartphone screen shape) and quick page-load speeds are among the most important features. Know what your users are looking for and make it easy to find. If you’re running a restaurant, for instance, users want to know where you’re located, when you’re open and what’s on the menu. And don’t forget to put any marketing campaigns front and centre. “If you’re running a promotion and your call to action is sending me to your website then I’d better see something relating to that promotion the moment I get there.”
So get going. And once you’ve got it up and (mostly) running, Bailey has one last piece of advice: “Test, retest and then test some more.
Next Month: You’re hiring a contractor that will also be working with your competitors. Here’s how to protect your information.