We can’t run from it. We live in the mobile age. More people have cell phones or tablets than laptops or desktops. Even public and private schools are providing tablets to students where only a few years ago they were providing laptops.
Since mobile is here to stay, and according to some is the future of computing, how should businesses think about mobile when designing their company websites? Just how essential are mobile or responsive designs? And how does mobile affect ad placement?
Let’s jump in to find the answers to those questions.
Why is Mobile Essential for Websites?
Since most people browse the internet on a mobile device these days, you can expect that most of your customers and potential customers also browse online using mobile.
That means thinking mobile-first is absolutely essential.
Imagine having a great brand and some amazing products to offer. A potential customer is interested in what you’re selling. They happen to be on their smartphone when they follow a link from an ad or social media post and they end up on your website, perhaps a landing page you’ve carefully crafted, a page that’s designed to convert. The customer started out excited about your brand, but after a few frustrating minutes dealing with your non-mobile-friendly website, they give up and move on to another website. Your competitor, who has taken the time to think mobile-first, gets the sale. You don’t.
Yes, having a mobile-friendly website is important. A few years ago, it may have been optional. Now it is vital to the success of your website.
What Business Types Needs Mobile?
It’s hard to imagine a business type that doesn’t need to think mobile-first. No matter the intended demographic for your business—young or old, rich or poor, rural or urban, professional or casual—you can bet your ideal customers are using mobile at least as much as they use a desktop computer.
Even if your company is B2B and you’re targeting mid-level HR office workers, don’t expect that they’ll always reach your website via a work computer. Plenty of executives and office workers spend nearly as much time in the office on their phones or tablet than on a desktop.
The conclusion? Unless your business is a very special case, you should probably think mobile-first when it comes to designing your website.
Mobile Ad Placement
Two special areas in which mobile sensibilities are a major concern are ad types and ad placement. First, let’s look at ad types. Certain kinds of ads don’t translate from desktop to mobile very easily. Take horizontal banners, for example. A banner may look fine stretched across the top of a page on a computer. That same banner would be impossible to read when displayed on a small smartphone or tablet screen, especially when it’s held vertically.
Both banners and pop-ups must be adjusted for mobile so that they don’t become a hassle to the mobile browser. If you can’t adjust them, it may be best to set them so they don’t display at all when the site is being viewed in mobile.
What about ad placement? Ads can be grouped in certain ways on a desktop monitor that looks great, but that may not translate well on mobile. A reader will get frustrated if they have to scroll through multiple ads on their cell phone to finish an article.
So ads need to be spaced differently in mobile. Or it’s possible that the overall number of ads will need to be adjusted when the screen is a certain size or smaller.
Website or Responsive Design?
When thinking mobile-first on your website, you have two basic pathways you can follow. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Let’s look at what they are and how you can make the right choice for your website.
The first option is to make an m. version for your site. Many large sites do this. For example, if you go to youtube.com on your smartphone, you’ll either be prompted to open the dedicated YouTube app or go to the mobile site, m.youtube.com.
Even if you aren’t tech savvy when it comes to web development, this is an easy concept to understand. There are two distinct websites, a desktop one and a mobile one. If you go to the wrong site, it will automatically prompt you to go to the best option for the device you’re using.
The second option is to have a responsive website. This means the website will automatically adjust to the size of the screen it’s being viewed on. Elements may be rearranged, some might be exchanged for other elements, or some may disappear completely, all depending on how the website designer planned the responsiveness.
Which of the two options is better? That would depend on your website, its needs, and its size.
Generally, very large websites will opt for having a separate, mobile-friendly version, since they would be too heavy on the servers trying to make such a large site responsive. On the other hand, a smaller, simpler website could easily just be made responsive.
It may also depend on if you already have a website designed. Is it responsive already? How does it look on mobile? Would it be more cost effective to redesign the website to be responsive or have a mobile version designed from scratch?
A decision like this is best taken up with your website designer. They can help you make the right choice, one that will best serve your website for years to come.
Mobile Apps for Businesses
Another option to consider when thinking about mobile is creating your own app for smartphones or tablets and encouraging your customers to download the app.
Building your own mobile app can have many advantages. You can make offers to loyal customers through the app. You can send them notifications through the app, as well. Some companies use mobile apps to build a community around their brand.
Even though building an app can often be a great idea, there is a warning here to consider.
It would be a mistake to think that creating an app would be a great replacement for making a mobile-friendly website. The truth is, your site should be viewable on mobile whether you have an app to offer or not.
Imagine the customer in the scenario from before. He goes to your website after clicking a link from an ad or social media post. He gets to the landing page that’s been especially designed to convert. But the page isn’t mobile friendly. Immediately, a popup invites the customer to download your mobile app to view the same page. What do you think he would do?
As you can imagine, creating a mobile app to replace a mobile-friendly website is a mistake. If you want to make an app for your business, you’ll need a better reason to do so, such as the reasons we gave above.
As we can see, forgetting about mobile when it comes to designing your website is simply not an option. You’d simply be leaving too much potential business on the table, so to speak. No wonder almost all web designers are thinking mobile-first these days.
In fact, thinking mobile-first means more than realizing mobile is important. Many designers these days literally design the mobile version of a website first. Then, afterward, they reverse engineer the site for desktop.
How can you do the same? When it comes time to give your web designer some guidance regarding what you’re looking for in your website, why not look at what other businesses in your area are doing with the mobile version of their websites? What do you like and what do you think could be improved? What style do you want the mobile version to be?
In other words, when thinking about your website, why not literally consider the mobile side of things first? That would make sense, considering more potential customers will see your mobile site before they see the desktop version.
That way you can prepare for the future of business and the future of web design, by thinking mobile-first!