Now that more people are accessing the Internet via iPhones, iPads, Android smartphones and other mobile devices, a mobile-optimized version of your regular site is becoming an essential complement to your regular website. While smartphones do a pretty good job of rendering regular webpages, smart mobile optimization can make the experience faster and simpler so you can keep mobile readers coming back. Unfortunately, too many sites get it wrong.
These days, my primary way of consuming long-form content on the Internet is my iPhone. I use my computer to create content, but my iPhone to read it. Here’s my personal pet-peeve list of what not to do.
1. Redirect users to mobile-optimized homepage
Few sites have enough pull to bring me to the homepage just to see what’s new. In the age of the splinternet, it’s Google, Facebook, Twitter, Google Reader, email or one of a dozen other sites that brings mobile traffic your way. We’re not there to bask in your brand. We are in search of a specific piece of content. If I don’t get what I’m looking for when I click, I click away and don’t come back.
2. Strip out all sidebar content
While mobile optimization necessarily involves simplifying the page, it’s smart to judiciously choose a few extras to pull me deeper into your site. By all means, lose the sidebar, but keep a search bar, links to automatically generated related content and a way to contact you.
3. Strip out sharing options
While I’m primarily a consumer of content on the iPhone, I am also a collector. When I read something interesting, I often want to file it for later or share it with friends. If I have to copy & paste a link and open another program to email or share, I’m a lot pickier about what I’ll choose to share. Make it one click to email content or share on Facebook or Twitter. Bonus points if you use Facebook’s share buttons or remember my email address so I have less to type.
4. Fail to include the option to switch to regular view
Sometimes I want to find something on your sidebar. Sometimes mobile view is wonky. Sometimes I just like seeing your whole site. Give me a link to switch over to the full view in case your mobile site isn’t giving me all I want to see.
5. Build your whole site in Flash (restaurants, I’m talking to you)
Flash sites are invisible on iPhone, iPad and many other mobile devices. Unfortunately, restaurants are one of the worst culprits for this. The site looks pretty if you visit it once at a computer, but when you’re on the go and trying to show a friend the menu to help make a decision about where to go eat, your site gets a big fat fail – right when you should be converting looky-loos into customers. If you want to have a Flash site as your main web presence, that’s your call (though I am not a fan … and that’s a whole other post), but if you do, a text-based mobile version is a must.
6. Forget that mobile users <3 texting
Consider including the option for users to text a link (or directions, or an address, or a phone number) to a friend. Bricks-and-mortar businesses could also set up a simple form to get people to sign up to receive special offers by text, or offer a discount or special deal for visitors who text an offer to a friend.
7. Ignore Facebook
Facebook, one of the world’s most-visited websites, is also a juggernaut of the mobile web. Invite visitors to become a fan on Facebook, by link or text message. Provide like or share buttons, or hire a developer to integrate Facebook using their mobile APIs.
Bonus: Assume that you don’t need a mobile site