With 86 million people searching for businesses on their smartphones, your website better be easy to access.
Small business owners are under increasing pressure to establish their mobile presence. First, it’s where people are shopping. Roughly 86 million people say they search for local business information on their smartphones, according to a study by Neustar Localeze and 15miles. It’s no wonder that mobile marketing is a hot trend.
But that’s only part of the equation. A business that has made itself visible to mobile users also must make itself accessible. Yet only 26% of small businesses have a website optimized to run in the mobile realm, reports Web.com.
It’s time to take that website beyond the desktop and onto smartphones and tablets. But how to get there? Start with the four tips below from Damian Laymon of Laymon Designs in Harrodsburg, Kentucky. His firm specializes in producing self-managed websites for small business owners.
So whether going mobile means adapting an existing site or building something entirely new, Laymon’s advice will help smooth the path, whichever route you take.
1. Eliminate Flash content.
"I loved Flash back in the day and created some cool effects and sites with it, but unfortunately, two different groups of folks have rendered Flash obsolete: Google and Apple," says Laymon. "Apple doesn’t support Flash on any of its mobile devices. Google, or any search engine for that matter, can’t read the content inside of a Flash-based site or follow links, meaning your beautiful Flash-based site will be relegated to the dark corners of the Internet where no one travels."
2. Update to a CSS-based layout.
"Any website that you create has a layout, a way to separate content into rows and columns for easy organization," says Laymon. "Many older site layouts were created with HTML tables. There’s nothing technically wrong with this; however, table-based layouts aren’t as easily customizable and have a tendency to look old-school.
"Also, table-based layouts weren’t really designed to be compatible with mobile devices. Updating your site to a CSS-based layout is something that you’ll probably want a professional to do, but it will help your site become more compatible with today’s mobile technologies."
3. Create a streamlined mobile version of your website.
"It’s very easy to create a second version of your site that’s designed specifically for mobile devices," says Laymon. "This second site probably won’t have as much detail and information as your full site, just the basics. However, it will work well with mobile devices.
"Once created, your designer will simply include a script in your website that detects the platform and screen resolution that you are using, and based on that information, either directs the user to the full version or the mobile version." This is what’s called responsive design. "You see this method in many big online stores, for example. The only disadvantage to this is that when you need to update your site, you’ll need to update both sites with the new information."
Businesses already using content management systems such as Wordpress can easily find a developer who will "design responsive themes, or themes that are fully compatible with a variety of platforms and devices. It’s typically very easy, and cheap, to simply find a new responsive theme that can easily be plugged into your existing site."
4. Determine your needs for the long haul.
"Decide what your needs are for the long haul," Laymon concludes. "I deal with many clients who tried to do things on their own, or had a tech-savvy nephew or cousin build a site. A year or two down the road, many find that it’s necessary to simply start over and spend more money in the long run than if they had simply had it done right in the first place. There are many affordable options these days for small businesses who need to start marketing online, and many pitfalls to consider, so do your research, consider your options."