5 principles of an effective mobile website

Dropbox by Johan Larsson

The world is becoming increasingly mobile and there’s no turning back! With the proliferation of smartphones, laptops and other mobile devices such as tablet computers we are now beginning to see the rise of the ‘digital nomad‘ – those willing and able to work and socialise online wherever there is either a 3G or Wi-Fi connection.

With half of all local searches being performed on a mobile device and a prediction that the mobile internet should overtake desktop internet usage by 2014, having a mobile action plan should become an an essential component of any company’s corporate marketing strategy.

One of the first steps to take when ‘going mobile’ is to create a mobile version of your company website. Whether your site is static, interactive, a blog or e-commerce-driven, the aim remains the same: to create a simple, separate and effective online experience for anyone visiting your site on a mobile device.

Below are 5 guiding principles that I have personally found very useful during the planning, design and implementation of a mobile website:

Define objectives

Before starting the process of designing and creating a mobile website, be clear as to how you intend to use the site and what you want to gain from it. The mobile website should be designed with your main target customer in mind and tie in with your existing marketing strategy and tactics.

Set clear goals and identify success metrics during the early stages of the planning process and link these with any website marketing targets that are already in place.

Keep the site simple but practical

A key principle for any mobile website is to have a clean, simple and practical design and functionality. File sizes should be kept at a minimum to allow for faster loading times and navigation and layout should be straightforward and intuitive to aid usability.

The main elements from the desktop site should be included on key pages throughout the mobile version and there must be an emphasis on the tappable (as opposed to clickable) as users will be using their fingers rather than a mouse to navigate around the site.

Be stylish

Just because the site is simple doesn’t mean that it has to be boring. As with your desktop site, it’s important to add an element of style and flair to your mobile website to attract visitors and create a buzz around your brand.

The mobile website should compliment the desktop version whilst retaining its individuality as a genuine ‘third screen’ in its own right. The mobile website should be clearly identifiable as belonging to your brand but at the same time stand alone and offer a completely different online experience.

Make it interactive

Being able to access a website from the palm of your hand is a uniquely intimate experience and changes the whole dynamic of how a customer interacts with your site. Mobile therefore gives you the opportunity to connect with your audience in a completely new way through the use of:

  • Social media integration
  • Location-based marketing
  • QR codes
  • Gamification

Test

As with any new project or venture, testing is key prior to launch.

A mobile website will function differently depending on the smartphone, handset and operating system being used and although it is wise to optimise your mobile site for the main devices your core customers are using, it is still important to test the site on a range of platforms. This will give you time to iron out any bugs and make adjustments before the site goes live.

 

I’ve not intended to take a technical look at web development or design for mobile in this post, instead just offer a selection of guiding principles for marketers to consider during the planning and implementation stages.

Check out this very handy article from Mashable for a much more detailed and technical look at mobile web design strategy.

Do you have any additional ideas for what makes for an effective mobile website? Please feel free to include your thoughts, insights and experiences in the comments.