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The way people interact with the Internet is changing. In previous years, almost everyone used a desktop or a laptop to access the Internet. Searches were performed either at home or at work, and the limited mobility of laptops only expanded this range modestly. Websites were designed for this paradigm and remained that way.
After the release of the iPhone and Android phones, however, this paradigm was shattered. Today, people are spending much of their browsing time on these new devices, and business owners must be ready to capitalize. Usage rates of these devices continue to rise, and many users are using their desktops and laptops less than before.
Further, many are using their mobile devices’ GPS chips to locate nearby businesses and restaurants. Instead of looking before they leave, potential customers are traveling into town and then finding where to go. Businesses with a website that functions poorly on mobile devices will lose customers who become frustrated and choose to try a competitor.
Mobile website design demands a different set of priorities than websites targeting desktops and laptops. The first major difference deals with the website’s appearance. Website design has traditionally dealt with impressing visitors with graphics and Flash elements. These pages were designed to stick in the minds of visitors long after they have left. Mobile websites, however, need to fit on 3.5-inch screens; impressive graphical elements and complex designs do not translate to these smaller devices.
Often, customers simply want to find a phone number or address of the business. Some websites, however, have this information in Flash elements or buried where smart phone users cannot easily find it. Mobile website design dictates that this information should be displayed prominently. Another important key to effective mobile website design is remembering that users do not have a mouse and keyboard when they access websites on mobile devices. It is crucial to test interfaces to ensure that they work well with touchscreen devices.
Fortunately, it is possible to detect whether visitors are using mobile browsers or desktop web browsers and show them the appropriate version of the site, so business owners will not have to give up their current websites. As these devices continue to rise in popularity, however, it will become even more crucial to ensure that mobile users have a pleasant experience when looking at a company’s website.