Big Screen Little Screen. Why one size does not fit all.

Mobile web traffic now accounts for nearly 1% of all Internet traffic and almost 7% in the U.S. alone. That’s a serious amount of pinching and dragging!

Internet viewers are on the move and do much of their surfing and catching up during commutes and downtime. A good portion of this time is spent on mobile e-mail, Facebook and twitter where links-a-plenty are shared endlessly. This means the majority of discovered content is likely consumed in this way and not necessarily from a desktop. What’s usually being shared are typically photos, videos and blog articles, most of which already have mobile optimized viewing options. If you don’t have a mobile option for your viewers, its unlikely they’ll flag your site to view later on their desktop. It’s clear we’re losing traffic this way and so are our clients.

At the very minimum, a mobile formatted page with pertinent about and contact info is a must. In the retail, dining and entertainment markets, most users are just looking for hours, directions or a phone number. Any additional info beyond this is a bonus. An option for viewers to browse the desktop version as well is helpful for those who prefer it. Moving forward however, mobile will be the majority with desktops secondary. We’re a long ways off but it’s something we need to start thinking about now. It’s likely mobile screens won’t get any bigger.

The mobile browser has come a long way in providing viewers access to the sites they frequent on their desktops, complete and total access on their smartphones as well. Thanks to the developers behind these mobile browser technologies, we’ve not had to worry too much about providing specifically for mobile. It’s a convenience for us as designers and developers but not necessarily for our viewers. I mean, come on, users don’t mind pinching and dragging to view sites that were created for a minimum 1024 viewing width on a 3.7” screen, do they? All those tiny forms and drop downs, no problem right?

This is a slow and frustrating way to surf the web and just because the mobile browsers interpret our code fairly well, it doesn’t mean it’s the best approach. One size does not fit all neither in real estate or bandwidth. How many times have you opted to not zoom-in and just tried tapping a tiny link only to end up at the wrong page and have to backtrack? Consider this, the thumb is the most used finger for navigating on smartphones. The average thumb tap imprint is approximately ½” by ½”. That’s a huge amount of space on a tiny screen.

The big players are leading here and the rest of us need to follow suit. Google, flickr, Facebook, twitter, Bing, Amazon all have neatly organized, fast loading mobile versions of their sites. Even many popular blogs built on WordPress translate for mobile well. It seems the smaller players, the mom and pop shops, are the ones that get left behind. We have a responsibility as their online strategy advisers to make sure they’re not getting left behind.

As web designers and developers, we’re constantly faced with an ever-evolving landscape of development technology’s, browsers, operating systems and devices. This is just another standard for which we need to come to grips and start providing solutions. A mobile version should be a consistent line item and feature on all project briefs going forward. We’re doing our clients a dis-service but not including it.

If you’re looking to drum up some new business and need a reason to touch base with older clients, perhaps this is a good way to get in touch again. You could offer a bare-bones 1 page option at the least, or pitch them on a more thorough mobile option that encompasses more of their content. This is something we’ve started doing at Corum and Guerrette to make sure our existing clients sites don’t get lost in the shuffle. By no means are we leading here. We still have quite a few client sites that need to be brought up to speed.

Google Sites offers a free mobile website builder versatile and easy to use. Could be a cost-effective way to help get your old client sites updated: http://www.google.com/sites/help/intl/en/mobile-landing-pages/mlpb.html

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