Taking Your Website Mobile.
You might have tested your website on every computer browser you can find, but nowadays that’s just not enough. Nowadays the web is getting more and more mobile – it’s being used on mobile phones, PDAs, and all sorts of other small devices that can be used on-the-go. You need to allow for these visitors as well, but that’s easier said than done.
So What’s the Problem?
Well, unfortunately, there are dozens of manufacturers of mobile devices, and each one produces hundreds of different models. There has been little standardisation among mobile web browsers: basically, the only real way to check whether your website will work on one or not is to test it. As you can imagine, with all the devices out there, that’s something that you could never really do – especially considering that new devices come out every few months or so.
All you can do, then, is make your site generally suitable for as many mobile browsers as possible, instead of trying to alter it to work perfectly with specific makes and models. When you do this, there are a few basic rules to remember.
Make Things Work Without Images.
Be Light on Bandwidth.
Most mobile devices are still accessing the web at sub-dialup speeds – that makes your page’s loading time very important to them. Sure, they’re not spending time downloading images, but they still have to download all of your page’s source code before you can display it. You should make sure that your source code is as compact as possible, not repeating itself or using long-winded methods of doing simple things.
This is one of those times when it’s good to know HTML and have written your code yourself, but if you’ve used a WYSIWYG editor then you should at least try running the code through HTML Tidy, to see if you can reduce its size at all that way.
Watch Out for Screen Width.
You’ve got to realise that mobile devices have a much smaller screen width than even the tiniest computer monitor. This makes it very important to make sure that your website (without images) will work on very small screens – the biggest problem here is tables, which never work well. Better compatibility with mobile devices is yet another reason to switch your site over to valid XHTML and CSS, instead of relying on old table hacks for layout.
If you can take your website mobile successfully, then there’ll be all sorts of rewards. Mobile shopping is still quite new, and there are lots of people trying it out for the first time and starting to build loyalty – you can get a lot of long-term customers if you get into it now. People are also far more likely to pay for small pieces of information or downloads, since they can pay quickly and easily using their phone instead of a credit card.
Of course, even if you’re not selling anything, a mobile website can still be good promotion. Mobile users are especially likely to use your website to try to get your phone number, or directions to where you are – do you really want to let these people down? Anyone who’s taking the time, trouble and expense to look up your site on their phone is likely a loyal (or potentially loyal) customer, and you want to make things easy for them.