As the buzz begins to build for the September release of the iPhone 5, research is showing that mobile Internet use is rising rapidly. According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, the number of people using their cell phones to browse the Internet has doubled in the past three years. And with the rise of other mobile devices, such as tablets and e-readers, more and more people are browsing the web using only mobile devices.
Among the latest Pew Research findings on mobile Internet use:
- As of early 2012, 88 percent of American adults have a cell phone, 58 percent have a desktop computer, 61 percent have a laptop, 18 percent own an e-book reader, and 18 percent have a tablet computer.
- Among cell phone owners, 53 percent own a smartphone as of February 2012. This means that 46 percent of all American adults own a smartphone.
- As of April 2012, 55 percent of adult cell owners use the internet on their mobile phones; nearly double of what Pew found three years ago.
- 31 percent of current cell internet users say that they mostly go online using their cell phones, and not using some other device such as a desktop or laptop computer. That works out to 17 percent of all adult cell owners who are “cell-mostly internet users”— that is, who use their phone for most of their online browsing.
How can you make sure that your website is inviting and useful for those people who find it while they're on the go? Your mobile site can't just be a mini version of your full site.
Usability experts debate whether you should have two separate sites - one for access by desktop and laptop computers and another for mobile access. Because of the rise of mobile usage, many web developers advocate overhauling main websites in ways that make them optimized for mobile browsing. That's fine if you're already planning a major redesign, but if that's not in the budget, creating a usable mobile site can hep keep your web visitors happy.
Some key things to think about as you plan a mobile site:
- Make it easy for a visitor to complete a task quickly on the go. What that means will vary, depending on your business or organization, but it could mean putting contact information, directions or log-ins front and center. Think about what your mobile visitors will want to accomplish most when they access your site.
- Think about conversion. In this case, conversion means making a sale or in some other way getting a return on your site. What's your call to action? For a restaurant, that could mean making it easy for your mobile site visitors to make a reservation, view a menu and access your Yelp reviews. A B&B will want to include tools for getting driving directions and contact numbers, as well as a way to check room availability and book a stay. If your site is promoting cultural events, include a way for mobile visitors to purchase tickets.
- Keep it simple, but not watered down. A mobile site is like poetry, in that is packs a lot of information into a deceptively simple, usable, streamlined format. This requires real content strategy based on real research about online behavior - and in particular - online behavior on your mobile site. The best mobile site design is responsive, iterating improvements based on user needs and ROI. And best of all, this attention to mobile content will help improve the quality of your desktop content, as well.
Take a look at your own website using a phone or other mobile device? How well does it work? What could it be doing better?