Why Mobile Sites Have to Be Simple

Just about every day, a new technological innovation hits the market – at least it seems to anyway. One area that’s experienced rapid growth in recent years is mobile smartphone technology. These devices provide the capability to surf the web, check email and shoot/upload pictures and videos.

Of course, there are probably 20 other features we’re skipping here but that’s okay.

And from our first post exploring mobile-compatible websites and from our personal experiences, it’s safe to say that Internet capable handheld devices are quickly becoming the norm, especially in foreign countries where the cost to obtain a smartphone is much less than the cost of a laptop or desktop.

Most businesses and websites though have not taken this into consideration

While they may have a very extensive main site, many businesses have not spent 5 minutes thinking about a site optimized for mobile devices.

As you may know from your personal experience or by using a friend’s phone, the screen is very small. Trying to view a site that is not mobile-compatible on your phone means you may be scrolling up/down and sideways a lot.

Needless to say this can get frustrating…

Another consideration is the data used to transmit webpages to a mobile device. Unless all of your users have unlimited data plans through their service provider, they will quickly consume their allotted data (…usually expressed in megabytes) for the month if they have to access a site that’s designed with only traditional computers in mind.

Large images, background images, videos and other animations take bandwidth to transmit. Not only will this quickly consume a user’s monthly megabyte limit, it will be much slower than a connection through a traditional computer.

Unlimited data plans are in fact a thing of the past for many service providers so anyone new to mobile smartphones will likely have a limit after which additional charges will kick in. Like text messages and minutes, these charges can add up really quickly.

The other reason your mobile site has to be simpler is the fact that the vast majority of mobile users are in a hurry, even more so than users accessing your website from a traditional computer. Navigation and information on your mobile site has to be simple and easy to understand – visitors must be able to find what they’re looking for quickly and move on.

So what can I do to be sure I have a site compatible for mobile users?

In a way, the answer can be surmised in the three words – simplify, simplify, simplify!

Like we said above, smaller screens coupled with data limitations means any large images, videos or background images will take longer to load, consume more bandwidth and the entire screen on a mobile device. Get rid of these “extras” and stick to a basic navigation with short bits of content…logos and simple images are okay but fancy graphics will cause visitors frustration.

Also, keep your pages shorter.

Since screens on mobile devices are smaller, users may have scroll a lot to see all of your content. Some up and down scrolling is okay (…and is pretty common on traditional sites). Side-to-side scrolling though is a bit more cumbersome and frustrating.

It’s been suggested by usability experts like Jakob Nielsen that you should limit up-and-down scrolling as well by breaking pages up into several different pages. On each section, include a link that says “next” at the bottom so that visitors can click to continue reading.

And of course, you should also provide plenty of cross-linking opportunity between your mobile site and your full site. Doing so allows visitors the flexibility to choose which site works better for them…if they want to learn more, they can indeed go to your main site for more information.

There are of course other things you need to consider that are dependent on the kind of site you have.

One question that always comes up is whether you should have your entire site formatted for mobile or just a handful of main pages.

If you’re running an online store, you may want to consider having the entire site in both mobile and full versions. But if you’re a B2B or a service-oriented firm, having a few main pages then linking to your main site may be good enough.

All of this of course is dependent on your budget for developing a mobile site.

One thing is absolutely clear though – mobile compatible sites will be increasingly important in the future. If there are no businesses in your industry with a mobile website, building one now can give you a distinct competitive advantage in the years ahead.

As economic challenges in the western world continue to mount, it’s quite possible this competitive edge will make the difference between business success and failure.

Have you developed a mobile website for your business? If so, did you optimize your entire site for mobile or just a few pages?

Other Posts You May Be Interested In

Mobile Smartphones and SEO

Preparing for the Mobile Revolution, Part I

Preparing for the Mobile Revolution, Part II

10 Important Points to Consider When Redesigning your Website


Stone Reuning is President and CEO of SEO Advantage, Inc. Consulting for a wide variety of companies over the last 25 years, Stone spent the 15 years prior to founding SEO Advantage working in design and development of advanced decision support and executive information systems for some of the most prestigious medical institutions in the U.S.