How to make your website mobile-friendly

By Kathleen Aoki

In a recent survey by Google, 67 per cent of respondents indicated that a mobile-friendly site makes them more likely to buy a product or service, and a similar number said they would move to another site if they couldn't easily find what they were looking for on their smartphone.

With statistics like these, it's clear that businesses today can't afford not to have a mobile-friendly site. Mobile sites are faster, designed to render text and images correctly, and optimised for smaller screens - eliminating the need for excess scrolling and "pinching".

If you haven't already, now is the time to make your site mobile-friendly, and it's probably much easier than you think. Here are three different approaches to creating a mobile site, along with some pros and cons of each.

1. Create a mobile version of your existing website

This option basically amounts to having two different versions of your website, a regular one and a mobile-enabled one. It works by detecting if a visitor is coming from a mobile device, and redirects accordingly.

Pros:

  • Inexpensive or free to build.
  • Requires little or no technical skill.
  • More control over the look and feel of your mobile site.

Cons:

  • Have to maintain changes on two separate sites.
  • Not suitable for tablets, which are increasing in popularity.
  • Can cause search ranking problems (see Google's recommendations).

To get started with this option, simply use an online tool such as MoFuse, DudaMobile, or Mobify. There is a wide variety of tools out there, so it's worth doing some research to find out which ones are best suited to your needs.

2. Choose a mobile-optimised theme within your CMS

Plenty of CMS templates are mobile-responsive. If you are one of the more than 65 million WordPress users today, for example, you can instantly adapt your website for mobile with the use of special plugins, such as the WPtouch plugin.

Pros:

  • Simple to install and enable.
  • Provides a lightweight and fast interface.

Cons:

  • Limited functionality with graphics.
  • May not work with tablets - depends on the theme.

Not all CMS products offer this function, but there are plenty who do - be sure to do your research and take advantage of what's on offer.

3. Build a responsive-design website

This last option is what Google recommends. Responsive web design (RWD) is based on a "fluid grid concept" that will allow a website to dynamically configure itself based on the type of device accessing it, from oversize monitors to all types of handheld devices.

Pros:

  • Only need to maintain one website.
  • Works for all types of handheld devices.
  • Centralised SEO and analytics.
  • Can save time and money in the long run.

Cons:

  • More expensive to design and build.
  • Because you are maintaining only one site, there is less flexibility in design.

Unless you're a web guru, you'll probably have to hire a consultant to help you convert or rebuild your existing website to a responsive design.

When you're all done...

It's a good idea to test your mobile-enabled site from a variety of different mobile devices such as iPhone, iPad, Samsung Galaxy, etc. You can also test your website's mobile compatibility with Google's How to Go Mo. Just go to the Mobile Meter page and enter your URL. It will show you how your site looks on a smartphone and will guide you to make your website more mobile-friendly.

 

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