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 the  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

Cyber-Stats

Mobile phone ownership is quickly outpacing desktop and laptop computer ownership. Trends show that more and more users are getting on the internet with smart phones and other mobile devices instead of the traditional computer.

The internet is in the palm of our hand, what are we doing with it?

Mobile web usership statistics

With more adults owning a mobile phone than own a computers it is time to target this new demographic. Make sure that your site is easily accessible to all of your potential clients. Marketers used to say that every business needs a website, now marketers are preaching the need for a mobile website as well.

 

 

Data Compiled from the Pew Internet project.

Size Matters

We live in an amazing, amazing world, and it's wasted on the XXXXXXX generation of spoiled idiots. They wine and complain about how long it takes to get a message, a web page....just give it a second, it's going to space! Louis CK on Conan O'Brien

We live in an amazing, amazing world, and it’s wasted on this generation of spoiled idiots.
They wine and complain about how long it takes to get a message, a web page….just give it a second, it’s going to space!
Louis CK on Conan O’Brien

In the early days of computers when floppy disks were truly floppy I doubt we could have foreseen where computers would take us. We popped in a diskette to load a program, performed the task that the computer was needed for, then, shut the whole thing down.  Computers were clunky and slow and could only do one thing at a time, they were for computing, no frills, no bells, no whistles. As technology increased (vacuum tubes going the way of the dinosaur) and manufacturing techniques became more sophisticated consumers demanded that our computers become smaller, faster, more useful, and that is exactly what we got! In fact, we have been so successful that my phone has 100 times the computing power that my old IBM XT model had.  With access to these “super computers” 24/7 it is no wonder that ecommerce, especially mobile ecommerce, is flying through the roof.  Consumers are checking out your website on the train, at the bistro and while walking on the treadmill. If your site isn’t mobile friendly the user on the train will probably stay – they are bored and have nothing else to do. On the other hand the guy on the treadmill is definitely going to ditch your site. It’s just too small to read while he bobs up and down. OK, that might be a little farfetched, but the scenario isn’t too far from the truth. If your site isn’t easy to use on the device the user has, the user will go to website that is.

Just like computers, websites have gone through some hefty transformations as well. In the 90′s websites were small because computers and internet connections weren’t as fast as they are today. Designers relied on text and a few splashes of color to create web pages. Images were basic, remember the animated gif? In the early 2000′s the internet was really heating up and Flash was all the rage. Cable and DSL internet was the standard and monitor sizes were getting bigger too. Designers were catering to a population that was still patient, that remembered listening to that dial-up tone; they didn’t mind installing ActiveX to run a Flash based website or the horrendous load time. Ten years later and Flash based websites are falling to the wayside. Initially this was due to a rise in knowledge about how search engines indexed your site and a trend in SEO (Search Engine Optimization), but with Apple’s iPhone and their hardliner stance on NO FLASH, Flash is out and Responsive Design is in.

What does that mean for you, the first time entrepreneur and the long time business owner? It means it’s time to take stock of (or create) your online strategy. Websites aren’t meant to stand the test of time. If your website was built at the turn of the century it is going to need an overhaul. If you are just starting out you need to be aware of what is “out” and what is “in.”

There are many types of websites online today. Static brochure sites, ecommerce sites, informational blogging sites (like this one), social and review sites to name a few. A common misconception is that today’s internet user is only doing frivolous things online. “No one is going to sit on their phone and tap out a long online form,” you might say. You might be wrong.  Trends show that many households that don’t own computers DO own smartphones. Just like we sat through slow as molasses internet speeds to hear “You’ve Got Mail,” we will also painstakingly tap out name, address, and credit card number on our phone to make a purchase if it is all we have available to us.

How do you tap into the growing market of mobile ecommerce? You have three main options. A responsive website, a separate mobile website or a mobile app. Which one is right for you?

A responsive website adapts to the size of the device it is viewed in. On a computer monitor the site might have a header and a horizontal navigation bar and several columns for text and pictures. Switch to a tablet device and suddenly the site is compact. The header shrinks and instead of 4 columns you only see two! Go to your phone and the site is even more streamlined. the navigation menu is cleverly tucked into a single button that pops up with the menu if you need it, and everything fits nicely in one column on your screen. Who uses a responsive website? Someone like the Boston Globe. All of their content should be available to everyone regardless of where the read it.

Separate mobile websites were first popularized before responsive websites were available. Generally a mobile and often scaled down version of your website is created on a subdomain (mobile.mywebsite.com). A little bit of script on your main website detects that the user is on a mobile device and redirects them to the mobile site. The pro’s of this approach are that you can streamline your content, and give users who have slower connections and less horsepower (i.e. they are on 3G and using a lightweight smartphone) an optimized version of your site, skipping over the impressive, but heavy, photo galleries. The con’s, you can’t always anticipate what a user actually wants. Just because I am on my phone doesn’t mean that I ONLY want directions and hours of operation.

Lastly are apps. These nifty little “programs” are downloaded and stay on your mobile device, forever. When do you use an app? When you already have a relationship. Apps are great for managing an account or shopping online. Apps are not great for content meant for browsing, especially if the user is in the “research” phase.  If I haven’t made up my mind about a company’s services or products I’m not going to clutter my phone with their app just to see what the company can offer me.

Today the internet is browsed at the same speed that the bachelor down the hall channel surfs through his 3,000 channel cable TV package. If a show, or website in our case, doesn’t instantly and peak our interest, we are moving on.   Assess your needs and the needs of your clients. See how your website functions on a phone a tablet a laptop and a computer then make the decision on how to best mobilize your online business.

The day the Earth Stood Still

Godaddy Servers go down

Pictoral Representation of Godaddy's Server Status

Where were you September 10th, 2012? If you are like many of GoDaddy’s customer’s you were sitting at your browser hitting your refresh button over and over again while simultaneously watching the trending #GoDaddyCrashes topic on Twitter.

Sometimes being one of the masses can be a liability. Instead of safety in numbers you are one of the expendable many. Rumor and report has it that hacker’s took down GoDaddywith a distributed denial of service attack (DDoS). Why? Perhaps because GoDaddyannounced it’s support of the US Congress’s bill SOPA, anti-piracy legislation, which caused GoDaddyto come under fire from activist groups. While some of those groups were hackers, GoDaddyrenounced their position on SOPA months ago. So, why now?

Maybe it wasn’t hackers after all. According to GoDaddy’s official story the outage was not caused by “external influences.” I’m guessing that Bob in accounting tripped over a power cord and shut the routers down. No matter what happened we have been assured that our data was not comprimised and GoDaddy continues to provide 99.9% uptime.

What did the crash take down?

  • People who host with GoDaddy
  • People who register their domain with GoDaddy
  • GoDaddyemail accounts
  • All of the above

I did find that sites were still accessible through their unique IP addresses, which means people who understand how to use the Internet (as opposed to the World Wide Web) were still able to get to their content. Thankfully the sites were coming back online by close of business Monday, and hopefully no one is (much) worse for the wear.

I do recommend not keeping all of your eggs in one basket. If you can route your email address (MX server) somewhere other than Godaddy, like to Google Apps (see my previous post) at least your email will be immune to this type of attack. Also, have alternate means of communicating with your customer base. Events like this make Twitter and Facebook invaluable tools.

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