As smartphones and tablets become more and more popular among the general population, more and more people are wanting a mobile website. Many of my clients are asking me for quotes on building a mobile website these days, and what I’ve come to discover is that they really aren’t quite sure what they are asking for.
There is a big difference between a custom mobile website and a mobile compatible website, and I believe it is a common misunderstanding that you need to have a separate website built in order for it to be available on mobile devices. So what is the difference between a custom mobile website and a mobile compatible website?
The Mobile Compatible Website
That being said, there are other technologies that have limited or no support in the mobile browser such as Flash and Java, so if your website uses these more specialized scripting languages, they will not display on your phone or tablet. However, unless your entire website has been created in flash, users should still be able to access the non-flash aspects of your website properly. This is a major reason why I recommend that my clients stay away from any use of flash on their websites, as it is a proprietary technology and it eliminates an entire group of users from your website… those who primarily work from their mobile devices.
Before you ask for mobile version of your website, check first to see if you can properly access the website from a smartphone. If you can, chances are there is no need to have a second mobile website programmed unless there are specific circumstances in which you would need one.
The Custom Mobile Website
There are some circumstances where a custom mobile website would be beneficial. These would include retail websites and other very large websites that would benefit from having a more concise website for mobile use. If your company sells a lot of products on its website in many different categories, sometimes this can be too much for the mobile user to navigate. In this case it would be beneficial to create a mobile version of the website with larger buttons which are easier to read and click on a touch screen.
Other websites that may have extraordinary amounts of information on them will also be difficult for the mobile user to read and navigate. In this case it may be beneficial to create a paired down version of the website which includes only pertinent information. This would include store location, contact information, and/or hours of operation, while leaving out employee bios and years worth of blog articles to weed through.
Its also important to consider audience. If your website is advertising to a segment of the population who probably don’t own a smart phone, you probably don’t need to spend your money on a custom mobile website.
Chances are if you have a small informational website (i.e. less than 20-30 pages) that was programmed properly in mobile compatible languages, you probably don’t need a custom mobile website.