Honey I shrunk the web!

The writing is on the wall, you know you need your site to be mobile (and tablet) friendly. All the research points to the fact that more and more consumers are checking you out online and increasingly doing it on their mobile device.

Getting an app is probably overkill for the small business person and it isn’t even going to help you gain new customers! What affordable (or free) options do you have to help new mobile customers find you? A lot of the options will depend on how you implemented your online strategy in the past.

The DIY method. You like to keep costs down, and handle things yourself.

Whether you started off with GeoCities or recently created your website with Google Pages you fall in theĀ  category of free hosted solutions. Many hosted solutions upgrade their platforms as the web changes, embracing new technologies as they come along. Google for instance has introduced a smattering of mobile templates for Google Sites. This method will be most successful if you are using Google Sites for your entire web presence. Simply enable the new themes and you are done!

If you already have an established website you could augment your current site by creating a free mobile version of your site with Google Sites. Add the most pertinent information to the new Google site. Keep this to what a mobile user will be most interested in like where you are located, contact information, services you provide. Put a link on your current site, that says “click here for mobile” or better yet get a mobile browser detection script for your website that will automatically send users browsing on a mobile device to the new mobile Google Site. While this isn’t the best method it is better than nothing.

Mobilizing Service.

Google “mobilize my website” and you will be presented with any number of options. Starting with Google’s endorsement of Duda Mobile and ending with Mobify the options are endless. In this category you are looking at services that take your current website and reformats it to be better viewed on a mobile device. Your site is hosted on a different subdomain (mobile.mywebsite.com) and free options usually will include ads that appear on the mobile version of your site. Handling your site in this method can lead to SEO problems with duplicate content popping up on the web, users being sent to the full site when they are on a phone, but when done well, this method can really shine.

Add a Mobile theme to your CMS

If your site is already built with one of these powerful and free CMS’s the transition will be painless. Fully fledged CMS’s like WordPress, Joomla & Drupal have vast resources in the developer community. Use this to your advantage and add a mobile theme to your site. These mobile themes are built by the community and made available to you, check out themes for WordPress, at little or no cost. With a CMS your content (the C in CMS) is separate from the layout of your site. This means by simply uploading and activating a mobile theme you like your site can be instantly converted from desktop to mobile ready in just seconds. Each platform will have a different process so I won’t go into that here, but the end result will be the same. Users on small devices will get all the same content of your full site but it will be formatted for their screen size.

Total Redesign.

In for a penny, in for a pound. You are ready to sink your teeth into the growing market share of mobile users and you want to go all the way. Unless you are moonlighting as a developer you are going to need to hire someone to pull this off. When you are shopping around for an agency or web developer to build your new website here is what you need to be looking for:

  • Responsive Design. Your site scales to fit the device being used, just like those WordPress themes I mentioned earlier.
  • It should be built with HTML5 & CSS3 backed up with use of jQuery to enable the transition of the site from desktop to phone.
  • If you want Flash make sure it has relevant content to display if the user can’t see Flash.
  • Cross Browser compatibility. Make sure they are testing not just on PC’s and Mac’s but also with IE8+, Mozilla, Chrome & Safari AND on the major mobile devices like Android and Apple.
  • Be sure they are conscious of SEO balancing words and images.
  • Your website should be structured in a logical manner with fewer rather than more directories, website.com/pages/topic/dig/a/little/deeper/for/the/page.html is generally considered poor practice.
  • The price is right. If it is too good to be true it probably is. While you can’t trust someone that promises you the world, don’t choose the most expensive shop either.

Have you recently gone through the mobilizing process? Tell us how!

 

Resources

http://detectmobilebrowsers.com/

http://www.google.com/sites/help/mobile-landing-pages/mlpb.html

http://www.dudamobile.com/plans.html

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Emily L. Hunter | Graphic Design | Web Design | 205.821.9056 | Birmingham, Alabama