On line business news & marketing tips.

How mobile ready is your website?

If you think mobile computing is just around the corner, think again. It’s already arrived . A recent Sydney survey reported that the fastest growing segment of public transport users were commuters under 30. Their motivation: Instead of dead time behind the wheel, they could be browsing the web on laptops and mobile devices like tablets and smart phones, catching up on emails, working, paying bills or shopping.

Mobility will change the way the internet functions.

At the moment, only around 900 million people worldwide access the net via mobile devices, compared to 1.4 billion desktop users, but the numbers are changing so fast that by 2014 more people will browse from a tablet or smart phone than from a desktop. (1.7 billion on mobile device s vs. 1.6 billion on desktops).

What does this mean to you as a small business owner? It means that unless you are thinking about how to cater to the browsing needs and preferences of mobile shoppers and customers, you could to lose out on a lot of turnover.

The reason for this is NOT that mobile customers will not be able to search for or open your website on their devices. Almost all websites built in the last few years can be opened on a smart phone or tablet. That’s not the problem.

The problem is that potential customers will find your site so difficult to read and navigate on a mobile screen or tablet that they will ignore you in favour of a more mobile-friendly site that is designed to meet their needs.

Mobile content and design basics.

Being mobile-friendly is mostly about appreciating that instead of looking at your site on a full size screen, or even a notebook size screen, your site visitors are seeing it on a smart phone, tablet or mini tablet size screen. It’s all about being easy to read and this means shorter web text, bigger typefaces, and concentrating all the text and pictures in the middle on the page. Bullet points and small pictures are a good start.

As with desktop site design, search engine optimised content is critical and so is the way it is presented. You have to prioritise the content your mobile customer needs to make a quick purchase decision and make sure it is on the mobile screen. The other critical factor in mobile site design is download speed, and getting rid of non-essential content will not only make the small screen easier to read, but also speed up the download time.

Of course, navigation also presents its own challenges on a small screen. Is the navigation on your website clear enough to be easily seen on a small screen without blowing up the type? And can you navigate on screen by tapping radio buttons or links with your thumbs? (Since the fingers usually hold the device, the thumb is the easiest tapping method).

Finally, mobility also affects site functionality by enabling prospects to take their computer and phone along while they are actually shopping. Existing mobile apps include interactive maps showing customers how to find your store and point of sale price comparisons to help clinch a sale, and by linking your website to the new Google Local Search function, you can make it even easier for shoppers and buyers in your area to find your site.

Don’t panic or rush to change your website right away.

Mobility will make a profound difference to the way you do business on line, but desktop and lap top computers will be around for a long while yet and you need to develop a marketing strategy that will accommodate both desk top and mobile browsing

Many marketers believe that in the desktop and mobile will be used together to complete the same transaction – if a prospect draws up a shortlist of suppliers on the mobile on the way to work, for example, and researches that short list on the desk top at home that evening to actually choose a supplier.

The urgency to convert to a mobile-friendly site also depends on the type of business you own, and the target market you are aiming at. If your product or service is a considered purchase requiring long copy to establish its advantages as well as case histories, reference sites and demonstrations, it may not be an ideal product for mobile marketing.

On the other hand, retail sites which invite prospects to click and buy and businesses such as bars and restaurants are obviously a priority for mobility, especially if they are aimed at younger consumers who are early adopters of mobile technology. And with mobile banking just waiting to happen, shopping and paying on your mobile will soon become an everyday experience.

One possible solution: Have it both ways.

Why rush to change to a mobile solution if your current site is working well for you? Mobile or desk top does not have to be an either or decisions, since you can quite easily launch a mobile friendly version of your website differentiated by a M in front of the domain name.

Your M site, which is automatically selected by searchers on mobile devices responding to your searchword cues, uses the same SEO process and Adwords account as your desk top site and should share the same search rankings because all you are doing is offering searchers the choice between clicking the standard or the M version of the same site in Google search results. This is why Google recommend a live link from the desk top site to the mobile site and back again.

Google actually wants you to make your site more mobile friendly. Why? Because Google wants to give search engine users a better on line experience, and one way to do this in future will be to give them the option of opening a site in either conventional or mobile modes.

And because your mobile and desk top sites should have a close relationship , an M site is quite a cost effective solution too. For example, as an SEO content writer I would charge much less to adapt the content on your current site by making it shorter and punchier to suit a mobile site than I would to write it from scratch.

The next step.

There’s a really simple way to find out how mobile friendly your current website is, just try accessing it from a mobile device such as a tablet or Smartphone. If your current site is working fine on a small screen, you’re good to go. If it isn’t, you may need need to adapt the existing site or design a parallel M site which is automatically selected by searchers on mobile devices responding to your searchword cues.