Mobile Web Browsing Will Soon Surpass Desktop Web Browsing Posted by: Kenny S on 18/10/2011

Mobile design Scotland

Do you know what percentage of your traffic comes from mobile devices? Do you know whether you should be developing a mobile website or a mobile app?

If you don't you're not alone, the mobile landscape is still a grey area for many. But, as the number of Smartphone and Tablet users continues to grow (and predictions state that mobile web browsing will overtake traditional web browsing as early as 2014) it's essential that mobile is part of your current digital strategy.

How do you know when it's time to build a mobile website?

If you haven't developed a mobile website already, it should definitely be on your plan for this year. According to research from Olswang, 22% of UK consumers already have a Smartphone, with this percentage rising to 31% among 24-35 year olds. According to research from Gartner, Smartphone sales globally will reach 467 million during 2011.

Market predictions are all well and good, but you really need to look at your own statistics to see if it's time to build a mobile website. Firstly, you need to find out how your customers are accessing your website. How many are using mobiles? If you have a web statistics package like Google Analytics installed, simply look at the percentage of the overall traffic you are receiving and divide this by the number of people visiting your website from mobile devices. As a generally accepted guideline, if more than 5% of your visitors are mobile then it's time to develop a mobile web site.

Do bear in mind that getting your mobile website in order now will not only help you get ahead of your competitors, it will give you plenty of time to review the effectiveness of your mobile site and improve it before mobile traffic increases, and it certainly will.

What is the difference between a mobile web site, a mobile web app or a native mobile app?

We often get asked about the differences between mobile web sites and mobile apps. The simple answer is that a mobile website is a version of your website that is tailored for the smaller screen. It takes existing website content and reformats it so that the information can be accessed and read more easily on a mobile device.

A mobile web app is the same in that it is accessed via a mobile web browser, but differs because it is made specifically for the mobile platform. In other words, the user interface (UI) will generally be customised for the small screen for example, using larger button areas for a touchscreen interface.

Native mobile applications are different again because they are actually downloaded onto the mobile phone. They do not need an internet connection to run (although they do need to be connected to the internet to update software or information). Mobile apps can offer some advanced functionality too, using the phones' unique functionality for example, the camera, email, calendar, alerts and notificaitons, micropayments, or location based services.

Which is the right approach?

A key issue for companies is whether there is an argument for producing a mobile application versus a mobile web site. Of course, the decision to invest in one or the other (or both) depends on many factors, including your target audience and the functionality you need. And, of course, budget!

We highly recommend starting with a mobile web site because this is fast becoming as essential to your business as your website and is often the most economical way to convey your core business information effectively to the widest possible audience.

Why does a website need to be customised for mobile?

The main reason that your website will need to be adapted for the smaller screen is because a mobile website will play a different role in your digital communications. The context for use is different; your mobile customers are not usually sitting at a desk browsing the internet. If they were, they'd be visiting your website.

Instead, the mobile user is on the move and usually has a specific goal in mind. It may be to find a piece of information, to download a service, to fill out a form, to purchase tickets, or simply to find out how to reach your offices. More than half of Smartphone owners use their handsets to find a place and nearly 50% use them to directly purchase products or services.

It's therefore essential to consider the context of the user and tailor the user experience to their needs. What are the most common reasons that people would want to access your information and services whilst they are out and about? Once we have worked this out, we make sure that these are the most visible features on your mobile site. Of course, this is in contrast to your website, which features lots more information besides. But then your website offers a more leisurely browsing experience and a much larger screen.

Creating a good user experience in a limited space is a lot more challenging than it might seem. Good design is crucial to usability and your mobile web site should be fast and inexpensive to load too.

Is it not just another platform to update and won't this be time consuming?

Yes, it is another platform to update and you will want to consider mobile specific copy, promotions, special offers and features. However, we have made mobile web very easy and economical via our open source content management system, Screenmedia ReachTM. Our solution enables clients to update their main website, their mobile website and their mobile applications from a central place. You can read more about this in our blog entitled, Can your CMS manage and update mobile web and mobile apps? Once you have a good content management system in place, updating your mobile website will just become a part of your day-to-day customer communications.

Are you ready? Need a hand?

There is a lot to think about and if you have any questions or would like to talk this over please get in touch, we're always on hand with helpful advice.

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