Stunning Statistics That Should Convince You To Make Your Website Mobile Friendly (And How To Do It)

Stunning Statistics That Should Convince You To Make Your Website Mobile Friendly (And How To Do It)
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Are you a mobile user? Do you own an iPhone, Android, iPad or some other mobile device? I want you to think honestly for a moment about how often you use your mobile device to access websites. I bet it’s more often than you think.

My husband likes to make fun of me for having my phone “glued to my palm” and I like to roll my eyes and insist it’s not.

But it is. And it has nothing to do with the phone. In fact, the thing I’m least likely to do with my iPhone is make an actual phone call. I text, SMS, tweet, post, research, write, listen to podcasts and music, watch video – who needs a phone?

We’re so used to our mobile devices that we forget we’re using them. My phone is not so much glued to my palm as an actual extension of my palm. Who knows, maybe the next evolution of human beings will have an instant tweet button on their left thumbs. But I never thought of myself a “mobile user” and maybe you don’t either.

Yet all evidence points to the fact that mobile is a way of life for many of us and consciously or not, we are interacting with, judging and choosing websites and companies to do business with based, perhaps solely, on mobile experiences.

Statistics That Make You Go “Hm…”

Think you don’t need a mobile-friendly website? Or maybe it’s just not a priority? Are you still assuming that most people, or even just “your target audience”, are using desktops or laptops? Check these stats out and then tell me that again.

There are over 1 billion smart phone users worldwide, with more than 90 million of those in the United States alone. (Want a piece of that? I do!)

About half of all smart phone users are between the ages of 25-45. (Sound like your demographic?)

84% of people with smart phones use them to browse the web. (Are you reconsidering that mobile site yet?)

25% of all mobile users in the United States use mobile almost exclusively – that means no desktops or laptops. (How would you like to add another 25% to your profit potential? Hm…)

Are you convinced yet that your site must be mobile-friendly? If not, I hope you’re at least reasonably uncomfortable that you could be missing out on a huge opportunity.

Go Mobile: How To Tap Into That Market With Some Simple Considerations

In the early days of mobile, it was common for developers to build multiple versions of websites, one for each mobile device. Imagine how time-consuming and expensive that can be! One website for your desktop, one for iPhones, one for Blackberries… get out your checkbooks, kids.

Having multiple versions of a site is still one way to skin the mobile cat but if you’re like the rest of us, you want the easiest, least expensive way to make sure your site is accessible to all those mobile people.

And you also want one that you can adapt, because what happens next year when there’s another phone, another device, another browser? Do you want to keep building and maintaining more and more versions of one website? Say it with me: heck, no!

The good news is that you don’t have to. If you plan carefully and take some simple factors into consideration, you can move your site closer to mobile-friendly with each little tweak.

Sacrifice The Bells ‘N Whistles

At some point, we added an image carousel to our site. It looked way cool and had some nifty effects. We spent hours creating screen shots and setting it up and as a result we became sort of attached to it. But it really messed up the mobile site. It took up way too much space and you couldn’t really get the effect of it anyway.

So we had to make a decision: did we love the carousel so much that we were willing to let it interfere with our mobile users’ experience, or should we kill it?

As you may be able to tell from a noticeable absence of carousels on this site, we opted to kill it.

If you find yourself in this situation, my suggestion is to take out the knife and do it fast. You may love your animations, popups, intros, carousels or other little snazzy bits, but ask yourself what you want more: the snazzy bit or the 25% of the population you’re missing?

Some of the things that can wreck a mobile experience include:

  • Popups. Whether they’re ads or opt-ins, disable them on your mobile site. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to leave a site without reading what I wanted because the little “close” X was off-screen and I simply could not close that popup.
  • Tabs, dropdown menus and carousels. As I mentioned, carousels take up valuable real estate and sometimes don’t work anyway. Tabs and dropdowns can be even worse, because sometimes they don’t work at all on mobile, and if you’re using them for navigation, you’ve just prevented your site visitor from getting past page one of your site.
  • Flash. Don’t even get me started. It’s still a fascination to me that restaurants, the one business that you’d think would be all about mobile-friendly, still build websites in Flash. You know what that means to iPhone and iPad users, right? There are probably dozens of restaurants out there I might have visited, if only I could have brought their websites up as I passed through town looking for someplace to stop for lunch. Even if you’re not running a restaurant, please get your site out of Flash. In this day and age with all the technologies available to us, there is just no excuse.

Tweak Your Content

This one is too easy not to do. Remember, mobile devices tend to be small, and it’s bad enough reading through gigantic blocks of text on a regular monitor, let alone on those tiny screens.

Pinch, zoom, scroll scroll scroll…

The less of this you ask your users to do, the better chance you’ll have of keeping them on your site. Take a look at the content on your site and make a few tweaks to mobile it up:

  • Use headings. “Scanability” is even more important on a small device. Segment your content with big, clear headings and give people a chance to figure out what the page is about at-a-glance without all that pinching and zooming.
  • Chop up your paragraphs. You may be disinclined to write a single sentence and call it a paragraph, but a single sentence still takes up a pretty decent chunk of space on a smart phone screen. If your paragraphs are more than a few sentences long, find a place or two to insert a break.
  • Use lists and other formatting. Bulleted lists, bold and other basic formatting can make your text more scanable, can make important points stand out and make it easier to read – on any device.
  • Limit the “junk” on a page. Sometimes mobile sites are a mess because the desktop sites are a mess, too, it’s just less obvious when you have a wide screen monitor to spread it out. Things like ads, opt-in boxes, photos, calls-to-action, sidebars, multiple sidebars, social share icons – all these things add “stuff” to your page. Make some hard calls about what you can live without. There’s no point in having a share button if nobody is going to use it because they can’t read your site in the first place.

Make It Zip

Speed is so important on a mobile device. According to Google, mobile users expect a site to load in less than 3 seconds. If your site is too slow it could cost you visitors right out of the gate, even if you’ve done everything else right.

Try a service like YSlow or Page Speed to see how your site holds up and to get suggestions for improving it.

Speed can usually be improved tremendously just by getting rid of the junk.

Install A Mobile Plugins

If you’re using a platform like WordPress, it’s easy to create a mobile version of your site. There are plugins like WPTouch that let you do it with a click. In fact, if you view this website on your iPhone you’ll get an entirely different layout.

We sometimes fret internally that it’s not as pretty, not as “designed”. But the bottom line is: do we want people to think it’s pretty or do we want people to read our content?

Use Responsive Design

This is a great option if you’re ready for a redesign and are planning a rebuild anyway. Responsive design simply means that your website adapts to whatever device and screen size it is being viewed on. You decide on your priorities and show only the most relevant, vital information depending on what the screen can accommodate. Smashing Magazine is a good example of this.

View it on your widescreen monitor and you’ll get a full-width experience. Shrink your browser a bit and you’ll notice the navigation pops to the top. (Seems important – you want your visitors to get around, don’t you?) Shrink it more and the ads disappear. (Makes sense – better to show content than a page of ads.)

Responsive design is not for the faint of heart or the do-it-yourselfers (unless you’re a designer and coder). But the result can be not only beautiful but beautifully fluid.

The Proof Is In The Pudding: Test Your Site

There is only one way to know precisely what your site looks like and how it works on mobile devices: test it. This is easier said than done. I doubt many of us own every conceivable version of every mobile device on the market today. But surely you own at least one.

If you’re sitting at your desk, building your site, and it never occured to you to pick up your phone and see what it looks like there –– –  slapslap!! Consider yourself reprimanded.

You should know how your site works on at least one mobile device. And if your spouse, friend, mother or colleague owns another, you should be calling that person and offering to buy him or her a double fudge sundae in exchange for viewing your site and giving you feedback.

You can also try a simple service like GoMo, which lets you enter your website address, answer a few simple questions about the purpose of your site, and get feedback on how well it works on mobile. It’s free and you don’t need an account, so it gives you an easy place to start.

It’s getting harder and harder not only to keep people’s attention but to get it in the first place. If your site is mobile friendly, you’ve got a better chance of doing both. Is there anything else you’d suggest for making a site mobile friendly? Anything that drives you nuts when you try to access another site via your phone? Share your thoughts so we can all benefit!

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Carol Lynn Rivera

Carol Lynn Rivera

Carol Lynn is a content creator and marketer who has been in the business of digital marketing since 1999. Along with her husband and business partner Ralph, she owns and operates both {Web.Search.Social}, a consulting and marketing services business, and Rahvalor Interactive, a web and creative services production studio. On any given day Carol Lynn will wear the hat of project manager, consultant, social media manager and content marketer. Her true passion is writing, whether it’s web content, a blog post, email campaign or social status update. When she's not writing for customers, {Web.Search.Social}, or her own blog, she's planning her early retirement to Barcelona as a famous and wealthy novelist.
Carol Lynn Rivera
Carol Lynn Rivera
  • http://twitter.com/JNorberto JNorberto

    Timely Article.  I am leading a major rebranding effort, and one of the key items I insisted upon with our web design firm (contracted before I joined new company) was that our new corporate website had to incorporate a responsive design.

    We’re still in the early layout stages, and while there is still a lot work that needs to be done… the responsive design works well… I am a major stickler on brand consistency and brand effectiveness.

    I know how daunting it is for everyone to talk about a “standard” website, cross-platform, mobile site, blah blah blah.  If you want to deliver a real positive visitor experience for your new/next website… go with Responsive Design. 

    • http://twitter.com/CarolLynnRivera Carol Lynn Rivera

      Good for you! I’m glad that you were able to convince them (but what a shame they did not suggest it…)

      It’s really a necessity these days, with so many people using mobile – or ONLY using mobile. I think it’s worth it if you can swing the time and investment. I can’t wait to see your end result :)

  • Bob Clarke

    What a great post!  I knew in the back of my mind that mobile use was increasing, but I never knew the stats.. til now.

    The last one particularly shocked me — 25% only use mobile and nothing else!  WOW!

    I am using the WP plugin you talked about in your post, but I must admit to not checking regularly to see how it is displaying.  But no problem — I’ll just ask my kids to check it once in a while.  

    Their phones ARE attached to their palms!

    Thanks for the info!

    Bob

    • http://twitter.com/CarolLynnRivera Carol Lynn Rivera

      I admit that one surprised me, too.It’s really interesting because in some countries in Asia, mobile is used almost exclusively so if your demo is there, it’s even more important. The WP plugin has been reliable for me, no problems with display. But I will tell you tat the floating share icons do not show up on mobile. So for anyone using those, it’s something to be mindful of.

  • http://www.donnamerrilltribe.com/ Donna Merrill

    Thank you Carol Lyn!  This was something I wanted to look into, but never did yet.  I am impressed with the stats.  I do admit, I must start getting up to par with my blog and check it.
    My goodness 25% only use mobile exclusively?  I am missing out on a lot. I have book-marked this blog so I can go over it step-by-step to get up to snuff with things.
    Just when I thought I had it all figured out, here I am on another learning curve.  One that is much appreciated!
    Thank you for your valuable information,
    Donna Merrill

    • http://twitter.com/CarolLynnRivera Carol Lynn Rivera

      Baby steps! If you’re not ready to jump in and tackle something like responsive design, there are many small ways you can improve your site for mobile. Try out your site on some mobile device then pick the one thing that will have the biggest impact and change it! Good luck :)

  • http://adriennesmith.net/ Adrienne

    I know that mobile use continues to rise and that the estimates are that more people actually access the internet through phones now than on a computer.  I guess because I don’t have any sophisticated phone yet, I can only go by what the statistics are telling me but I did install the WP Touch plug-in early last year.  

    I had a friend test it for me and he said my blog passed.  Will definitely have to take his word for that since I can’t see for myself.

    I guess we will just continue to move toward a world of mobile with everyone always on the go.  

    I know so many people will appreciate this post Carol because I know so many people never consider this really.  Ah, but they know now.

    • http://ryzeonline.com/ JasonFonceca

       I like how you said…

      “yet” ;)

      • http://twitter.com/CarolLynnRivera Carol Lynn Rivera

        lol, I think more than one person is leaving this post and driving straight to the Apple store… maybe I’ll be single-handedly responsible for an economic turnaround…

        • http://ryzeonline.com/ JasonFonceca

           Absolutely nothing wrong with that :) I encourage it!

  • http://barry-wells.com/ Barry Wells

    Hi Carol Lyn,

    My kids and brothers do more from their phones than on any other platform and you know what I still haven’t had them check my blog out :( 

    I had a guest post on my blog last year about the increase in mobile searches, which is continually growing, and at the time I checked that my blog looked ok. But i haven’t tested it again since that time.

    I don’t have one the smart phones as I only need my phone when I’m away from home, which isn’t that often.

    I’ll have my kids check it out on their phones and if need be I’ll come back for the tools ;) 

    Thanks for the details of the plugin WP Touch, If need be I know where to get it now.

    • http://twitter.com/CarolLynnRivera Carol Lynn Rivera

      Hi Barry,
      I checked out your site and the good news is it looks pretty good! A double-tap gets your content front and center and there’s no annoying “junk” in the middle of your pages. The WP Touch plugin is great because it gets rid of everything else on the page, so you don’t have the sidebars in the way, either, and that gives space to the center content. Plus it makes the home page really scannable, which I like. And there is an option to turn the mobile format on and off so if someone really wants to see your full site they can do so immediately. And tell your kids I think it’s time to buy you a smart phone for Father’s Day. Trust me, it’s not about the phone :)

      • http://barry-wells.com/ Barry Wells

        WOW thanks for doing that Carol Lyn, I did check with GoMo as the kids are out but wasn’t able to test any of the links or buttons. I did see that the layout was ok (but small).

        Thanks for testing it for me and following up with your advice, I’ll make sure I get installed and set up correctly.

        Not sure about the smart phone for fathers day but I may start dropping hints with them….. Now there’s a challenge :)

         

  • http://twitter.com/KenPickard Ken Pickard

    Carol,

    You had me at mobile! I know it’s important and to keep seeing lost of post about this emphasizes this point even more.

    I like your tips about shorter smaller paragraphs. There’s nothing wrong with a little more white space on some people’s blogs. and to mix in the occasional bullets and sub headlines makes it easier and more enjoyable to read.

    I can only imagine how long winded chucks of text looks on a smart phone. I guess I’ll soon find out as I’ll be jumping on that smart phone band wagon soon myself.

    Ken Pickard
    The Network Dad

    • http://twitter.com/CarolLynnRivera Carol Lynn Rivera

      Sometimes easier said than done – I know sometimes I can start writing and end up with A LOT of words! So it”s a good thing t have in the back of your mind all the time. White space is underrated, that’s for sure. A lot of people think they have to cram in as much as possible. Good luck picking out your new phone!

  • http://ryzeonline.com/ JasonFonceca

    Whoa, Carol… love this.

    You went the extra-mile on mobile tips.

    One of my best friends is CTO at Rycom’s mobile division and has been headhunted by Blackberry + Apple. He and I have discussed some very interesting, game-changing moves for the blog world and mobile devices.

    I love your story of ditching the carousel and am thrilled to meet someone else who “gets” the uh… downsides of flash :)

    I spent quite some years as a web-designer and feel pretty strongly about it.

    I haven’t put a lot of focus on making Ryze mobile friendly… hmm…. :)

    • http://twitter.com/CarolLynnRivera Carol Lynn Rivera

      Hm, sounds enticing… you must share your secret plans for taking over the universe! Or, uh, just for the blog world.

      Flash is so over. I wish people would just. walk. away. And to confess… I spent 2 seconds making this site mobile friendly which is about how long it takes to install the plugin :) But so worth it!

      • http://ryzeonline.com/ JasonFonceca

        Oh, I intend to… and it’s the world, *not* just the blog world.  Also, I tend to have ‘exceptional’ timing (for example I revealed part 2 of the comments post at just the right time :D) – so the secret plans will be shared when the time’s right.

        Flash is a tool, and I highly recommend it for Entertainers only. Showmen + women. Rappers, etc. – but for most sites? I don’t think so :P

        • http://twitter.com/CarolLynnRivera Carol Lynn Rivera

          I’m going to go out on a limb and say you never need Flash. At this point, go for video animation. And websites don’t need to be cool! They just need to work. So there. Now, when you’re ready to release the kraken, you just let me know.

          • http://ryzeonline.com/ JasonFonceca

            Nice limbs (but what woman doesn’t have nice limbs :P)

             “Never” is a pretty funny thing to say :)

            Discounting Form for Function is also pretty bold. I doubt it’d fly as an agenda but you can give it a shot :)

            Cool is unnecessary? Somebody tell Apple!

          • http://twitter.com/CarolLynnRivera Carol Lynn Rivera

            Never say never, right? How about this… I have “not as of yet ever” found a good reason to use Flash for any of my clients. 

            Seriously I believe you have to marry form and function. I didn’t say a website should be crap, but sometimes businesses go over the top on “design” and forget the site actually has a purpose other than to look nice. I don’t start a design process by asking my clients what they want the site to look like – I always start by asking what they want it to accomplish, what the business objectives are and how it should work. And here’s another bee for your bonnet: I don’t think the Apple site is all that cool. It’s nice in a clean/streamlined way but it’s sometimes not so easy to get around.

          • http://ryzeonline.com/ JasonFonceca

             ;)

            I thought as much… :D

            As for Apple, the comment wasn’t about their site, which I can’t remember visiting, but their leveraging of ‘cool’.

            Apple is pretty much the definition of cool, whether that shows up in their site or not :D

  • http://www.Blake.co.za/blog Sarah

    I am definitely all for Mobile, i can not believe the rate in which it is growing from transactions to post, tweets ect. To be honest i also get the boyfriend nudge about always being on my phone but i some how think he is just as much on his phone as i am on mine. One thing i have not figured out yet is how i can blog from my phone, i have really neglected my personal blog.  

    • http://twitter.com/CarolLynnRivera Carol Lynn Rivera

      If you use WordPress, it actually has a mobile app (at least for the iPhone as far as I have used) that you can connect to your blog and post right from your phone. See, no more excuses :) Seriously, it’s great. You just have to enable mobile posting from your WP admin, the you’re ready to go with the app. It’s worth it!

  • Nicky price

    Wow – really useful information and I too, had no idea that 25% exclusively use mobile!!  Wow again – I guess because I don’t have a mobile that does all that – heck I only bought my first mobile last year!!  (But of course that was always because I had Company phones etc – I’m not THAT technically behind!)

    So let me get this straight – with this WP plugin for my WP site, I will be mobile friendly immediately?  Well I am off to load this now!
    Thanks for the tips Carol!
    Nicky

    • http://twitter.com/CarolLynnRivera Carol Lynn Rivera

      I know, that number surprised me, too! Hence, the word “stunning” :)

      The WP touch is pretty nice, it just strips out everything but the content. Obviously you lose a bit in terms of sidebars and design, but if you want people reading your content, it makes it easy. Plus you can always put key pieces at the end of your post, which is pretty common anyway – more articles, signup box, share buttons, etc. So you don’t miss that stuff. And it’s so easy that you don’t have to spend hours and days obsessing over it. (And it’s free. What more do we need??)

  • http://susansilver.info/ Susan Silver

    I have an absolute great tip for those that want to see how their blog looks on smart devices. It is called the Responsinator. Give it your url and it loads your site as it would look on the kindle, iPad, and iPhone.
    http://www.responsinator.com/ You can also use cloudflare and a cache system to speed up your site for mobile. 

    • http://www.rahvalor.com Ralph M. Rivera

      Susan, That tool is not great. All it’s doing is pulling the site and showing it in a frame the size of a mobile device, but it’s not processing it as if it was that device. For example, this site looks nothing like what that tool displays on mobile.

      • http://susansilver.info/ Susan Silver

        Interesting… Good point. Mobile does process code differently.

        This would not work as well if you were using HTML 5 to do media replacements. Those are the tags that show if your phone can’t process a video. It will serve a text that says the feature isn’t available from your browser instead.

        • http://www.rahvalor.com Ralph M. Rivera

          FYI; I realize that my comment came off unintentionally harsh – I didn’t mean it to sound that way.