If there were ever a time when you didn’t even need to look at the statistics regarding smartphones to realize their ginormous take-up and growing share of the web market, it’s right now. Smartphones and tablets are everywhere you look, any time of the day. All websites are registering marked increases in mobile traffic year after year. Websites that are optimized for mobiles, that is.
You see, a website that does not take into account the significantly smaller screen sizes and processor speeds of mobile devices, as well as the touch screen interface, makes for a terrible user experience on smartphones and tablets. That translates into lost traffic and a potential decrease in sales. Not only that, Google weighs page ranking criteria differently for mobile traffic. So if your website takes forever to load on a mobile device, you can forget about coming out anywhere near the top in a keyword search return listing.
There are several strategies for optimising websites for mobile devices, but the two most prevalent approaches are Responsive Design and Standalone Sites. Both approaches have their pros and cons, and the choice often depends on several factors including the size and complexity of the pre-existing site, cost, and website software platforms.
Responsive Design generally entails CSS coding that reads hardware information regarding the visiting device. It uses this information and uploads content accordingly. This usually involves selecting a specific set of image and page sizes that load quickly and are easy to navigate with respect to the screen size on which the page is being loaded. Responsive Design is built directly into the existing pre-existing website code. This makes it, theoretically, the best approach in terms of website maintenance and development over time. There’s no need for a separate domain, which means you don’t have to manage separate sites with fundamentally the same information or products presented differently.
The amount of coding required, however, depends on the size and complexity of the site itself. This can mean a major upheaval for a well-established site with an enormous amount of content. Implementing Responsive Design for large sites can spell high implementation costs, site downtime and a certain level of compromise.
The other option is to automatically direct mobile users to Standalone Sites. These are specifically designed from the ground up for mobile devices. Users will notice they have been redirected to a mobile site when they see a URL that is something like m.site name.com. Websites that are specifically designed for mobile deviceshave the distinct advantage of being much easier to build initially, and the code can be tailored to achieve maximum performance without having to make compromises and without affecting the code of the original site. The downside is, of course, that now you are managing essentially duplicate sites that will require twice the amount of work to update and maintain.
There are, therefore, some choices to be made regarding mobile optimization. The best people to help you make these critical decisions are professional website developers and consultants. The one decision you shouldn’t even be thinking about is whether or not to have your website optimized for mobiles. This is simply a given. All the trends point squarely at mobile device domination of the internet market in the very near future.