If you’re like most companies, you have a website. You probably also may not have a mobile website. While this may not have been a big problem even last year, it’s quickly becoming extremely important to have a functional mobile version of your website ready for your customers. Here are the top five reasons why:
1. More than half of U.S. consumers own a smartphone
It’s hard to believe that the first iPhone was released five years ago. In the five short years since 2007, smartphones have become a ubiquitous fixture in American culture. Since it’s not 2007 anymore, you can no longer ignore the fact that more people have smartphones than feature phones (basically any phone that isn’t an iPhone, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile or Android) and they’re using those smartphones to browse the internet. This trend has been predicted for years, but as of March 2012, the majority of Americans now have a smartphone.
The next time you’re waiting somewhere – waiting to get seated at a table for dinner, waiting in the checkout line at the grocery store – take a look around at how many people are passing the time by using their smartphone. This might help you realize how important it is for your company to have a mobile site.
Major Mobile Platforms (photo credit: vodien.com)
2. Mobile users expect a simplified (and a quick loading) browsing experience
While modern smartphones can render full websites (with the exception of Flash for iPhones), mobile users expect a site that loads quickly, is easily navigable (without pinch-zooming) and contains plenty of functions and sections that are pertinent to mobile users.
In the example below, you can see the difference between the Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association’s traditional desktop website (on the left) and their mobile version (on the right). While the traditional version is a much more attractive website, the functionality on the mobile site is leaps and bounds above the traditional site when viewing from a mobile device. The mobile site is simple, straight-forward and easily navigable by mobile users.
Notice they ask the user to download their app right up front? That’s a great way to potentially turn a single visit into an app download. They also have a “What’s Nearby” link right at the top as well – most of the people who visit your website on their mobile device are going to want to know what’s closest to them, so having this functionality front and center is a great idea.
Below is the Missouri Division of Tourism’s website, also viewed on an iPhone. Again, the image on the left (traditional desktop site) looks awesome on a computer or tablet, but the copy and clickable elements are way too small to be functional when viewed from a mobile device.
Missouri took a different approach from the ICVA for their mobile site. It’s actually simpler and gives the user fewer options, but directs the users to parts of the site that really make sense for a mobile user – Things to Do, Upcoming Events and Places to Stay. It makes them all easily accessible when you’re in Missouri by adding the Nearby feature. Missouri also does a great job of tying in the look, feel and color scheme of their desktop site on their mobile site.
3. Mobile traffic is exploding
The screenshot above details out the mobile traffic seen from Jan 1 – May 28, 2012 versus the same time period in 2011 for VisitIndiana.com. While mobile visitors accounted for just under 4% of all visits in 2011, during 2012 we’re already up to nearly 16%. This falls in line with recent reports that mobile devices make up about 20% of all U.S. web traffic. That means that one out of every five visitors to websites in the U.S. is using a mobile device to do so.
Another thing worth noting – with the exception of a mobile-formatted microsite that saw most of the January and February 2012 traffic, VisitIndiana.com doesn’t (yet) have a mobile-ready version of their website. In early July their mobile site will be up and running.
4. Visitors are using mobile devices to plan trips as well as using them at their destination
This point is directly related to the Tourism industry, but there are still takeaways for other industries. TripAdvisor recently reported that travelers use their mobile devices to plan their trips and while they’re visiting. Just when DMOs have started to get a good feel for the online travel planning process, mobile comes along and changes it all again.
Users are planning their trips using mobile devices and they’re definitely using them when they’re at your location. Printed travel publications are still important, but it’s just as important to have a functional mobile website that visitors can use while they’re at your location to plan the extra things they do while on vacation – dining out, shopping, a last minute decision to visit an attraction in your area.
5. A great mobile website can eliminate the need to create separate mobile apps for multiple mobile platforms
The chart above shows a mobile smartphone OS breakdown from the past seven years. While the market share of Symbian, RIM, Palm and Microsoft’s OSes have been shrinking over the years the mobile OS market is still very fragmented. Android and iOS (Apple’s iPhone and iPad OS) own the lion’s share of the market, RIM (Blackerry) is still hanging on in the corporate world and will release BlackBerry 10 this fall and Microsoft has created a solid OS in Windows Phone 7 (8 will be coming this fall as well). Palm and Symbian are essentially dead as far as market share, but the thought of designing separate mobile applications for the four major OSes (Android, iOS, Blackberry and Windows) is daunting.
Rather than spending your time or limited budget on even just Android and iOS apps, putting those same resources behind a single mobile website will be a much better investment. Since Android and iOS apps are built using different programming languages, it’s not as simple as just submitting the same app to both app stores. A mobile website also gives you the flexibility that it will display on ANY mobile device, so if your visitors have Blackberrys or Windows Mobile phones, your website will be just a usable to them as it would be to a visitor using an Android or an iPhone.
The most important thing to do when planning a mobile website is seriously thinking through how your visitors would use the site and which information is most important to your visitors. Easy mapping/direction features? Yes Quick ways to email or call your office? Yes. Physical brochure order form? Probably not.