Mobile is big, and getting bigger. Apple sold 1.7 million iPhone 4s within 3 days of it going to market. Android (the software on many HTC, Samsung and Motorola phones) is activating a staggering 160,000 devices per day, and growing.
People aren't just using these smart phones to make the odd phone call or text message - they're using them to browse the Internet. It's a fast growing market, and smart businesses are sitting up and taking notice.
Internet speeds are much slower on mobile devices
Many web sites today have been designed for desktop computers, happily sucking down the Internet through nippy broadband connections.
Some technologies aren't available on smart phones
Case in point: The iPhone, iPad and iTouch devices do not, and never will, support Adobe Flash. Flash is a web browser plug-in that enables web designers to create animated sequences and flashy effects on web sites. Okay, so some of these sites might have an alternate page for non-Flash visitors, but this is often a poorly executed afterthought.
Does your web site rely heavily on Flash? If it does, you're shutting out your mobile visitors. Goodbye potential sales leads.
Mobile screen sizes are far smaller than your nice 24" desktop monitor
Rather unavoidably, mobile phone screen sizes are tiny. So browsing web sites on smart phones involves a lot of zooming in and out, panning about and general shuffling around in all directions. And that Apple Vulcan-death-grip thing? Yeah, the shine wears off after a while.
Giving your users a web site designed for gigantic 24" monitors might seem like a great idea, but are you forgetting your your mobile visitors with their limited screen real estate? Zooming in and out and scrolling in all directions is annoying, and if you're making browsing your web site too much like hard work for your mobile visitors, then you can hardly expect them to engage with your company.
Of course, you probably don't need to worry about fixing up your web site to please the mobile masses if they aren't actually visiting your site. So you're going to need some intelligence about what people are using to view your web site.
To check this out, you'll need access to your web site statistics. If you haven't the foggiest what this is, or you don't check your statistics, you have bigger problems on your hands. The good news is that it's very easy to add this tracking.
We use a fantastic website statistics package on web sites we design, called Google Analytics. It's free, fairly easy to use and provides a fantastic amount of information. If you don't have this, check with your web developer. It shouldn't take more than 15 minutes to set up.
Google Analytics - Visitors Overview
To check the total visitors accessing your web site using a mobile device, do the following in Google Analytics:
Once you have this screen called up, you can then easily see the number of mobile visits in the time period selected (the last 30 days by default), and what percentage this is of your total visits. You'll also be able to see the top mobile devices in the list below that figure. See the screen shot below:
Google Analytics - Mobile Devices
Let's take an example from a little web store called Amazon. Below are a couple of screen shots comparing how they adapt their web site to display differently when accessed through a mobile phone.
Amazon.co.uk - Accessed using a desktop computer
Amazon.co.uk - Accessed using a mobile phone
As you can see, Amazon are clearly providing a different web site interface for mobile users. This makes it much easier for their customers using smart phones to browse their store and make purchases online.
If you have a reasonable number of users accessing your web site using a mobile device, then this is the best way to cater for that audience effectively.