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The Roadmap to your Mobile Site

Design better mobile sites for your users

3:54 am on Jan 15, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Years ago, when I joined WW, there was a classic 26 steps to making your site better. These were very valuable for me and thousands of other WW users.

In the last few weeks, we've debated specific platforms and the relevancy of mobile Websites. This post is not intended as a debate on whether mobile Web matters or what platform is the best. This post is about helping those of you who believe you can help your users better by giving them a mobile site of going about and doing it.

I've developed my own mobile site months ago. I will admit that it was probably way in advance to the rest of my industry - which still hasn't caught on. But, the numbers don't lie, and the mobile site is being used every day by more people. Folks who months ago didn't get the purpose of a mobile site, now welcome my effort when they come back and definitely go for the mobile site instead of the regular one.

Here are some indications.

1-Mobile vs apps. Investing in a mobile site is, in my view a better long- term investment because a well built site can be used by any platform. Apps are platform specific and thus a closed ecosystem.

2-Apps that are nothing more than a rehash of a regular site are not well perceived by users. They need something extra than just being an RSS feed. If you decide to go after apps, add value.

3-Apps can be difficult to spread across several platform because the technologies used are different and development costly. To be safe, assume that the life of your app will be no more than two years. If you find the expense unjustified based on that and the return, than maybe you should not invest in apps.

4-There are many mobile standards both industry imposed and others based on the technology used by the platform. For example, all webkit browsers do not render pages the same way. There are many deviations. It takes skill to built a mobile site that's usable with the majority of phones. I would say to aim more for the smartphone class of phones instead of worrying about phones from before 2007.

5-Don't try to provide all the necessary features of your mobile site from the start. The most usable is a place your mobile visitors can surf through while using a smaller screen and a limited Internet connection.

5:00 pm on Jan 15, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Great start Harry.

I'm developing my mobile site as we speak. Been doing a lot of research on what standard I should go with. I found some interesting studies done that showed XHTML was one of the more broadly accepted mobile languages, so I have been going with that for now. It seems to work great so far on my iPhone, but I have not done further testing on other platforms yet.

To add to your list:

5b-If you start small, don't forget to go back and incorporate as much of your site's functionality over time. Mobile users will eventually (if not already) expect to be able to do everything the regular site can do.

6-Be sure to offer your users the option of switching back to the regular site (non-mobile) if they prefer it.

8:31 pm on Jan 15, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Thanks Harry, Good Start. I have already started converting and wow instant visitors. Though the percentage is small to the total, it is growing and it has only been a few weeks.
If you view visitors as your customers then you are going mobile for them.
ps. going mobile for me in not .mobi but for smart phones.
Small screen not tiny screen.
I have yet to meet a smart phone user that hates it.
4:19 am on Jan 26, 2010 (gmt 0)

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All these suggestions are quite valid and good.