Note: this is part one in a series called "Building Websites for Mobile." This post covers why it's important to consider mobile users. Later posts will discuss how to make your website mobile-friendly, and what you should (and shouldn't) put on it.
Yesterday, I got a phone call from a prospective Infront customer who had some questions about mobile websites and wondered what his options were for building a website that works on both desktop computers as well as smartphones. I explained how it works, the technical behind-the-scenes info, and why he should consider on building one. After I hung up, I wondered how many other people might want to know the same information.
Mobile websites are websites that are specifically designed and developed to render and function properly on mobile browsers. We live in the 21st Century, and there's a huge number of people using iPhones, Androids, and Blackberries to search the web for just about everything. The odds are some of your potential customers are viewing your website on a mobile device. So what does this mean for you? It means you need to make sure your website looks good and works well on a smartphone. So if you're wondering "why wouldn't it?", stay tuned. That's a great question.
A lot of websites that were built in the past few years are optimized for desktop computers and may look fantastic on a 23" screen, but many of the functions built into your website may not work on a mobile device. For example, Adobe Flash does not work on any Apple iOS devices (iPhones, iPads, etc), so if your website has a Flash gallery on the homepage, it's not going to show up at all for those users with Apple products. Also, some interactive features that rely on a user's mouse click (such as certain types of photo galleries and web forms) may not work on the touch-screen interface that all mobile devices have out of necessity. These are only a few issues that "full" websites can present to mobile users, and it's all just part of the growing pains of the internet. People are using their phones these days to do far more than we ever imagined, and it's taking a while for the technology to catch up.
Sometimes when I explain this to customers, they'll say something like "Yeah, but who cares? Nobody ever visits my website on an iPhone." Or "I don't care about mobile traffic—it's such a small percentage." I like it when people say this because it's so easy to respond to—all we have to do is look at the website traffic reports to see if that's really the case. If you monitor your website's traffic like we do, using Google Analytics, you can easily find out how many of your visitors are mobile. I did this recently for our website, www.infront.com, and was surprised by the number myself.
Just look at these stats:
- Total Mobile Visits: 3,612
- iPhone = 1,466 visits (from 1,257 unique users)
- iPad = 1,096 visits (from 935 unique users)
- Android = 819 visits (from 699 unique users)
- iPod = 107 visits (from 97 unique users)
If we add up JUST the Apple devices alone, that's 2,669 visits from 2,289 unique users. That's a lot of potential customers! This means over 2,200 people visited our website with a device that can't render Flash. None of those users would be able to see our big, beautiful photo gallery right on the homepage, unless we had a backup plan. (Incidentally, we do, but you'll have to wait for the next post to learn about that!)
Another takeaway from this graph is noting the dramatic increase in mobile traffic towards the end of the year. We started the year with 145 mobile visits in January, and by December of the same year, we had 521 mobile visits. That's a 256% increase in mobile traffic in one year! This just goes to show you how much momentum is behind smartphone sales, and it also shows that we can be reasonably sure that mobile users are only going to increase, not go away.
These numbers aren't exact for a few reasons (a lot of times, people visiting a website from a mobile device are just looking for contact information for your company, but more on that next time), but it does show that the number can be quite significant, and one worth paying attention to.
So now it's time for your homework: go check your own analytics reports and take a look at exactly how many mobile visits you've gotten in the past 12 months or so. Then come back next week for part two of this series: Also see Mobile Search Results
One final point: since I'm such an Apple guy, I just HAVE to point out that the graph shows that we got 2,669 visits from Apple devices, and exactly one (1) visit from a Windows phone. Go figure.