It is becoming increasingly difficult for business owners to ignore mobile, and that’s good. Ten years after the launch of the first iPhone, more than half the mobile phones currently in use are smartphones. And two years have passed since Google first announced that the number of searches taking place on a mobile device exceeds those taking place on a computer. Despite this, one doesn’t need to look very hard to find businesses that are still not optimised for mobile. They either don’t have a mobile-friendly website, aren’t visible on local search, or still rely too heavily on traditional marketing, without ever accounting for how their customers’ behaviour has changed. It’s okay if you still use a feature phone, and only ever browse the internet using your desktop or laptop computer. And it’s okay if you personally don’t have any social media profiles, much to the consternation of your friends and family. Nobody can force you to accept and embrace a mobile-centric world. The same, however, cannot be said for your business. Ignoring the shift in consumer behaviour when it comes to your business is downright foolish. In this article, I will guide you through some of the steps you can take to catch up, from finally updating your website, through to optimising other areas of your business for mobile. And even if you already have a mobile-friendly website, you may discover that there are some things you have overlooked in aligning your business with a mobile-centric world.
The one area where many small and medium businesses are still lagging is the company website. That website you had developed in 2010 may include the latest company information, but it probably looks awful on a mobile phone. Sure, smartphones allow users to pinch and zoom, but nobody wants to browse the internet like that. Before reading any further, I want you to visit Google’s mobile-friendly test site, enter your business URL, and wait for the result. Regardless of whether you get a pass or fail, you should continue reading this section, since it isn’t intended only for businesses whose website fails the test. That test only looks at some of the factors that go into making a website mobile-friendly.
There are three distinct approaches to creating a mobile-friendly version of your website. These are:
The desktop version of the Ella and Oz website
The responsive (mobile) version of the Ella and Oz website. Note how the information and design are consistent, even if the layout is slightly different on mobile. The inclusion of a navigation button in each section of the mobile version make it easy for visitors to jump back to the top of the page, without having to scroll.
As you would expect, there are pros and cons for each of the above solutions, but responsive web design (RWD) is perhaps the most accessible for smaller businesses. With both Dynamic Serving and an independent mobile site you need to manage at least two different sets of content, which not only makes data management more difficult, but it also increases the risk of errors creeping in. But accessible isn’t synonymous with easy, and with RWD you are expected to do some planning before implementing. This hinges too on whether you are redesigning your entire website, or only converting the existing design to a mobile-friendly one. If you are doing a complete redesign, you will be able to follow a mobile first strategy. With mobile first, your entire site is first designed for mobile devices, and then adapted for desktops and tablets. The rationale is that anything that works on the mobile version of a website will work on the desktop version.
The navigation on Amazon’s mobile-friendly website closely resembles that of the desktop version, and even though the drop-down menu obscures the content, this is only when accessing the menu and is preferable to making visitors squint to make out very small text.
Unfortunately, the reverse of this does not always apply, so if you are converting an existing – desktop only – version of your website for mobile, your task is less simple. You would need to do a full audit of your website, looking for the following:
Depending on how involved you were with the development of your company’s website, you may already know that there is inconsistency in how each browser implements web standards. And when it comes to developing a mobile-friendly website, you now also have to contend with the fact that there isn’t a uniform screen size for smartphones. This means you have to ensure that your mobile-friendly website displays properly regardless of the screen size. Fortunately, Chrome, Safari, and Firefox all come with a built-in tool for this, so you won’t need to first buy a half dozen smartphones of different sizes.
Open your website using any of the browsers listed above, and then do the following:
Alternatively, you can use Screenfly, an online tool which allows you to see what your website looks like on different screens. Unless you frequently visit your company’s website on a mobile device, I would recommend using the developer tools to view your website in responsive mode, even if it was done by a professional developer. This allows you to get a better understanding of how your website functions on different mobile devices and allows you to look for opportunities to improve the user experience.
The purpose of this article is not only to explain why having a mobile-friendly website is important, or what many of the terms and concepts relating to a mobile-friendly website mean. The purpose is to also guide you through the process of making your website mobile-friendly. In addition to the owners and employees of small businesses having to act in more than one role, small businesses also have limited resources. So any delay in implementing a mobile-friendly website is more likely linked to cost than to fear, uncertainty, or lack of knowledge. While it is still better to use a professional developer to work on your business website, it is not impossible – or too difficult – to do it yourself. Especially if your budget simply cannot accommodate the use of a professional. Using a content management system (CMS) such as WordPress is not only easier than trying to navigate your way around HTML and CSS, it also makes adding new content to your website a breeze.
Installing WordPress through cPanel
Many web hosts take care of the complexities of installing WordPress, with you needing to do little more than enter a few basic settings before your new WordPress-based website is ready to use. There are literally hundreds of free themes or templates you can use for your website, but more professional designs can be bought for less than $100. And you really should invest in a professional design. Recommended marketplaces for finding professional WordPress templates include:
Of course, there are other options available to you if you prefer to not use WordPress. These include:
Shopify and Squarespace both offer a 14-day trial, while Weebly and Wix offer a free plan. The free plan is not suitable for business use, but it will give you an opportunity to set up a test account to see whether you are comfortable using the website builder before creating a premium account. If you want to go the route of using an online website builder, always use the free plan or trial first to see whether it has all the features you need, and whether you understand the builder. Most of the solutions listed above don’t require extensive knowledge of HTML and CSS, but some understanding will certainly help. Most of them also make it easy to connect with experts and freelancers who, for a fee, can help you setup and customise your website. The fee for these experts vary, but for fairly complex e-commerce websites you should be prepared to pay several thousand dollars. You should be able to manage setting up your own online store if you only carry a small range of products. But if you carry hundreds, or thousands, of products, across dozens of categories, it is better to involve a professional. Preferably someone with UI and UX experience. Finally, regardless of whether you are using a pre-built template, or have developed your mobile-friendly site using a site builder, make sure your business address and telephone number are tappable links. By doing this you make it easy for customers to get directions to your location, or call you, just by tapping the appropriate link. The HTML code for turning your address into a tappable link would look similar to this:
39 Stoney Street, The Lace Market, Nottingham, NG1 1LX, United Kingdom while for your telephone number it would look something like: 0800-160-1602
Google offers two handy tests for checking how mobile-friendly your website is. The first simply tests whether or not your website is mobile-friendly. If you have added your website to the Google Search Console, you can follow a link to see details of any mobile usability errors Google picked up.
The second performs a more detailed test that not only looks at your site being mobile-friendly, but also at site speed. You are presented with a score out of 100 for mobile-friendliness, mobile speed, and desktop speed, and you can ask for a more detailed report to be emailed to you. The detailed report will list each item that is tested, and whether or not it looks good, could be improved, or should be fixed. Common mistakes that are found on mobile websites include:
If you don’t already have a mobile-friendly website, then hopefully some of what I have written above will encourage you to finally get around to developing one. Of course, nobody can force you into developing a mobile-friendly website, and nobody will try to. Because your business not being accessible on mobile devices doesn’t affect anyone but you and your business. However, for those of you who are now determined to develop a mobile-friendly website, or who already have one, you should be aware that it is only one step in the process of optimising your business for mobile. Let’s take a look at some of the other things you need to consider, or do.
If you’ve had a website for some time now – mobile-friendly, or not – you would already know all about the importance of search engine optimisation (SEO). You would also have a fairly solid SEO strategy in place, and be able to show the impact it has had on your website and business. So I am not going to waste any of your time by discussing SEO again, other than to say that your SEO strategy does not need to be modified to accommodate a mobile-friendly website. That is, if you went with a responsive design. If you implemented dynamic serving or a separate mobile website, you need to use annotations in your HTML, or user-agent redirects, to let Google know that it isn’t duplicate content but content meant for specific devices. And this is just one of many reasons why a responsive design is better, especially for small businesses. So if you’re not having to make any changes to your SEO, what exactly are you optimising for in search and discovery? Local search, that’s what.
Local search is a powerful tool for boosting discoverability of small businesses, but one that is often overlooked. When searching for a plumber in Nottingham, I’m immediately presented with three options. Each of these includes the business name, contact number, and trading hours. If the business has a website, and a physical location, then the listing includes a link to the website and directions using Google Maps. Selecting the More places link underneath the listings brings up many more listings, with location markers on the adjacent map. Notice how these listings stand out from the search results, and even from the ads that sometimes appear above them? And the best part is that it costs nothing to have your business appear in these listings. What happens when you do a similar search for your business? Don’t use the name of your business. Use only the name of your location (town or suburb), and the industry or service you are known for. Does your business show up? If it doesn’t then you are once again missing out on a lot of potential business. On a mobile device, users (and potential customers) are less inclined to scroll through dozens of results, so anything that stands out, and appears close to the top of the page, attracts more attention. And getting your business to show up in local searches is incredibly simple:
Other factors to consider when optimising your local search presence include:
A good example of how important local search is can be found in a Santa Cruz-based business that, after having their website optimised for mobile and local search, saw a 400% increase in website traffic.
All the popular social networks automatically take care of displaying most of your posts in a mobile-friendly manner, but there are a few things you can do to guarantee that they are always perfect:
Additionally, as mentioned under local search, you should ensure that your social profiles are fully complete, and include your location. On your Facebook Page you should include as much information about your business as possible, not just physical location, but also trading hours, etc. When people aren’t browsing the internet on their phones, they’re using apps. And when they aren’t doing either of these activities, they’re using social media on their phones. In fact, as early as December 2015, 61% of social media consumption happened on a smartphone. Meaning that if you are spending money on online advertising, a good portion of that spend should be allocated to social media advertising. Look at which social network the bulk of your audience uses before compiling a social media advertising strategy:
Don’t dismiss social media advertising without first trying it – with a proper strategy in place. A lack of positive results can often be attributed to targeting the wrong network, or improperly defined audiences.
Optimising your business for mobile is more than just having a mobile-friendly website, being visible in local search, and having a mobile-friendly social media presence. For one, it is about adopting a mobile-first mindset. In many ways Google popularised the mobile-first approach to web design, first by recommending responsive design above other approaches to mobile-friendly websites, and then by announcing a mobile-first index in 2016. It is possible to extend the mobile-first approach by adopting something similar in your marketing: all your digital marketing should be created for mobile first, then adapted for other devices.
A comScore study in early 2017 found that mobile devices accounted for more than 60% of total minutes spent online. So if your customers are spending more than half their ‘online’ time on a mobile device, shouldn’t your marketing be targeting them there? And one of the best ways of marketing directly to your customers via their mobile devices is with your own mobile app. Creating your own mobile app is even easier than making your website mobile-friendly (not that you should skip that step!), with app builders taking care of all the complex work for you. With your own mobile app, you:
Be sure to update your marketing strategy to include promotion of your mobile app. Your customers won’t know you have a mobile app unless you tell them.
In this article I have not only provided cost-effective solutions for small and medium businesses that still lack a mobile-friendly website, but also highlighted how optimising your business for mobile is about more than just your website. Optimising for mobile is also about being discoverable on mobile devices, and about adjusting your marketing specifically for mobile devices. More than half the time people spend online is done using a mobile device, so if your business is not accessible on smartphones, it may as well not exist.
This article was first published on appinstitute.com