Making Sure Your Website Is Ready for Smartphones

Todd Leeloy (in black):
Jeffrey D. Allred for The New York TimesTodd Leeloy (in black): “A smartphone is the new way of enabling word-of-mouth recommendations.”
TECH SUPPORT

What small-business owners need to know about technology.

About half of all mobile searches — those done on a smartphone or on a tablet — have “local intent,” meaning the person searching is looking for a nearby business. That number has risen sharply over the last five years, said Todd Leeloy, general manager of OrangeSoda, a digital marketing company in American Fork, Utah, that was bought byDeluxe in 2012.

The number of local business searches done on mobile phones is growing “astronomically,” said Mr. Leeloy, as is the number of smartphone users. Globally, smartphone contracts are expected to reach 5.6 billion by 2019, according to research from Ericsson. That’s triple the 1.9 billion contracts that exist today.

And those searches and subscriptions are driving purchases. According to a March 2013 study from Google and Nielsen, more than half of purchases occur within an hour of an initial mobile search. Yet the vast majority of small businesses have not optimized their websites for mobile devices.

We asked Mr. Leeloy to guide us through the hows and whys of mobilizing a small business’s website in a recent conversation that has been condensed and edited.

Q.

What exactly does it mean for a website to be “mobile-optimized”?

A.

One thing we do is build “responsive” websites. They adapt to the screen resolution of the mobile device on which the site is being viewed. The frame you put your information into is changed to one that can shrink or expand based on the device an individual is using. Pictures have to be the right size and weight, not too big or dense. Mobile content is easier to read and more scannable. It’s also easier to navigate.

On the OrangeSoda website, in the top right corner of every page is the company’s phone number and email, and you can tap it to email or call. It’s right where a thumb would rest on a mobile device. On a website that isn’t optimized for mobile, there would be a “Contact Us” or “About Us” page and the phone number is buried there. It needs to be in the top right corner. A large percentage of people will take action looking up your business on their phone. They’re generally not just browsing.

Q.

What problems do small businesses that haven’t mobilized their websites experience?

A.

Eighty-five percent of small businesses have a website without responsive design. A lot of businesses are very protective of their websites. They work hard on them, spend a lot of money on the design and colors. It feels like a work of art, not a business tool. But look at Facebook. Their pages are very straightforward and mobile-optimized. That’s the difference between a work of art and a tool for business.

Many small businesses fear mobilizing their sites because they lose some elements, like the Flash slide show, for example. Maybe a photographer hired someone to get large Flash images onto the slideshow on his website. But then you have the iPhone, which doesn’t work with Flash, so on a mobile site you won’t see that slideshow anyway. Now, instead of the home page of that website being an open door, it becomes a gate because you have things on it a consumer can’t access.

A business website should be fast to load, easy to use, and the information should be central. If it takes five seconds for the site to load on the desktop, it may take forever for all of the information and elements to load on a phone — that’s essentially the lock on the gate.

Q.

If a business’s website isn’t optimized for mobile viewing, does it rank lower in Google searches?

A.

Google really respects websites that are optimized for mobile queries. A website may be doing a lot of things right but could lose its position on the search page if the site isn’t mobile-optimized, and the closer you are to the first 10 positions on a Google search page for any keyword combination, the closer you are to that virtual Main Street, where all the traffic is.

Q.

You wrote in a blog post recently that a business website needs to be “discoverable, shareable and charming.” What does that mean for a mobile site?

A.

Let me give you an example. About two years ago my wife and I reupholstered our couch and we found a guy online who was fantastic. Several months later I was having lunch with a good friend, and he said, ‘I need a new couch.’ And I said, ‘No, just reupholster the couch. That’s what we did.’ And he said, ‘Great, who is your guy?’ I searched this man’s name and website from my phone, and with a couple of clicks shared my upholsterer’s website via text with my friend. He had a really simple share button on his site. A smartphone is the new way of enabling word-of-mouth recommendations. It was almost like I had the guy’s business card in my wallet.

Q.

Can you suggest ways for small-business owners to mobilize on the cheap?

A.

For those that are tech savvy there are a number of simple website builders where you can use templates — just make sure they are responsive templates. [Mr. Leeloy mentionedAPlus.net, which is also owned by Deluxe, but there are many others services, including MobifyMofuseWinksiteWirenode andWix. And Facebook Pages are optimized for mobile devices, too.]

Q.

Is there any type of small business that doesn’t need a mobile website?

A.

I think any business that would want its business card handed from one person to another should be on the mobile web.

Original article found here

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