Mobile: Not If and When, but How

It’s 2014. We all have a mobile strategy — right?

According to Forrester, 72 percent of U.S. mobile phones are now smartphones. That number is expected to exceed 90 percent over the next 3 years. Now consider that the average person checks their phone every 6.5 minutes. As a matter of fact, chances are many of you are reading this article from a mobile device right now.

For years now, statistics like these have been pushing us to focus on our mobile strategy, but not all of us have. Based on eMarketer, only 50 percent of sites are optimized for mobile as we enter 2014.  Considering that 46 percent of users now state that they will not return to your non-optimized site, if you’re still in the “pinch to zoom” camp, time is running out.

For most, the key question has shifted from “if” and “when” to “how?” If you find yourself pondering this very question, here are a few options to consider:

Responsive Design

By far the hottest buzzword for 2013, responsive web design is just as the name implies — responsive. When a site is built with this type of framework, everything from content and images to the overall structure of the site responds to the screen size of the user’s device. This fluid design approach means your site will look similar on your iPhone, your buddy’s Galaxy, your mom’s Dell, or the guy next to you with the latest phablet. (Don’t know what that is? Google it.)

Advantages of Responsive

  1. Future Proof — According to Cisco, there are now more Internet-connected devices than humans. As we move more towards the Internet of things, responsive design offers fluid designs that adapt to the screens of today and tomorrow.
  2. Search — In general, Google prefers responsive design. Having a single URL makes it easier for Google to discover and promote your content. Not having a separate mobile site also prevents duplicate content issues, which Google can struggle to understand. 
  3. Efficiency — Everyone wants more time and managing content in one location that displays across all devices simply takes less of it.

Disadvantages of Responsive

  1. Cost — There is no denying that when done right, responsive is a bigger investment. While some web marketers will dumb this down to a simple WordPress plugin to save costs, I believe effective responsive design takes research, time, and talent to execute. Put another way, you get what you pay for.
  2. Speed — If not done correctly, responsive design can slow down your site’s load speed. Typically, unoptimized images and bloated JavaScript cause this — both of which are easily avoidable by partnering with an experienced web shop.

Dedicated Mobile Design

A dedicated mobile website is designed just for mobile devices. When a user visits your desktop URL, their browser detects what type of device they are using. If it is a known mobile device, then it redirects them automatically to the mobile site. While not nearly as popular, dedicated mobile sites are just as effective when used for the right situation but they tend to be much less about design and more about function.

Advantages of Dedicated Mobile

  1. Speed — The number one reason to invest in a dedicated mobile design is page load speed. By nature, these sites are designed light and kept simple to accommodate specific user action.
  2. Customized User Experience — For some businesses, such as those focused on e-commerce, the experience from mobile to desktop can require unique navigation, content, etc. Dedicated mobile sites remove the clutter often found with desktop design. This simplified view increases the user’s ability to navigate and take action.
  3. Cost — On average, a dedicated mobile site takes less time and budget to execute. Obviously, there are exceptions, but overall, dedicated mobile will save money in the short term.

Disadvantages of Dedicated Mobile

  1. Efficiency — Dedicated mobile sites by nature have dedicated content. Taking time to update both a desktop and mobile website requires more time and effort.
  2. Disconnect — Scaling down the content for a dedicated site can often leave mobile and desktop sites looking and functioning very differently. As a result, users can be confused about which actions to take.
  3. SEO — Having multiple sites requires two URLs. This could lead to duplicate content, inconsistent redirects, and more time to optimize for search.

In the digital world we live in, one thing is certain — mobile is here to stay.  As you consider what online strategy is best for your business, take a step back and determine your goals and customer needs first. And then, respond appropriately.