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Mobile Website Design and Optimization Tips for Small Businesses

One of the toughest decisions today’s marketers have to make is whether to create a separate version of their website that exclusively caters to mobile websites, or build a single website around the responsive web design concept. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each method for mobile website design.
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Mobile-only

Pros  
  • Specifically caters to the smaller screens common of mobile devices
  • Can be optimized to use minimal bandwidth and only load certain features, resulting in a faster browsing experience
  • Tend to have higher visibility in mobile searches

Cons  
  • Having two websites means double the maintenance in the way of updates and optimization
  • SEO from existing site doesn’t carry over, so you have to start from scratch with optimization
  • Maintaining two websites increases the chances of producing duplicate content, which could result in penalties by Google and other search engines

Responsive Web Design

Pros  
  • You have a single website that responds to multiple devices and screens, eliminating the need to create and manage a separate site
  • Generally easier to update
  • Your SEO and rankings remain intact
  • It’s recommended by Google as a best practice for creating mobile websites
Cons  
  • Has been known to load slower than mobile-only websites
  • Has a difficult time supporting ads
  • Tends to be more complex to create initially
In the case of mobile-only websites versus responsive web design, there really is no right or wrong. A lot of it depends on the design resources you have at your disposal and the features you want to incorporate. What’s most important here is making sure that you go mobile by any means necessary.

Take the Simple Approach  

Whether you choose to create a separate website or go the responsive route, the goal should be making your design as simple as possible. Those flashy bells and whistles look good from a presentation standpoint, but also hog crucial resources, which makes your site load considerably slower. The typical mobile user visits a website to consume information, so use that as the motivation behind your design. Instead of aiming to wow with larger than life graphics and Flash-like features, focus on streamlined navigation that allows them to easily find whatever information or content they seek.

Forget About Clicks. Build for Taps!

Clicking a mouse has been the way to navigate the desktop environment since before the days of Windows 95. It’s still common to this day, but in the mobile arena, navigation happens by way of the mighty finger. You can accommodate smartphone and tablet users by incorporating larger buttons that conform to all the finger-tapping they do on their devices. You should keep the same in mind for navigation menus and other items they hover over to navigate their way through your site. It would be a shame to miss out on new email subscribers because your sign-up now button is too small for visitors to operate.

Don’t Ask for Too Much  

Mobile devices have made tremendous strides on the text input front. Just ask the average teen who can create text messages faster than most writers can type on a computer keyboard. With that said, quite a few users still consider it to be nuisance. For this reason, you should keep the information you request from mobile users to a minimum. So if your objective is getting people to subscribe to a mailing list, only request a name and email address. Other details can easily be obtained later. In fact, you should aim to make your mobile audience enter text as less as possible to minimize mistakes and frustration.

Test Your Creation

Testing is crucial to ensuring that your website lives up to the expectations of both you and your audience. Because there are so many platforms to choose from, you should test your site across multiple devices and operating systems. Tools like mobiReady, The Responsinator, and iPad Peek come in handy for this very purpose.
If you’ve been blowing off this mobile thing as a fad, it’s time to get realistic and embrace this revolution for what it is. The trend is huge now, but will only grow larger as technology advances. Jump on the bandwagon too late, and you may have a tough time catching up with the competitors who beat you to the punch.

 Aidan Hijleh is an SEO specialist and marketing expert currently blogging for Benchmark Email. An accomplished writer and former nonprofit organization liaison, he works with numerous top-tier blogs to deliver valuable intel to the small business owner. Some of the major blogs he has contributed to includes Search Engine Journal and DIY Marketers. Get more from Aidan on Twitter and Google+.

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