Time to Make Your Website Mobile-Friendly

You are probably aware that more and more consumers, particularly younger ones under the age of 35, are spending considerably more time on smartphones and tablets than they are on computers. What you might not know, however, is that they are also doing more shopping on their mobile devices—which includes researching service providers such as lawn care and landscaping contractors.

Some contractors are keeping pace with this trend, taking steps to ensure that their websites are easily viewed on mobile devices. But most aren't. In fact, we randomly started viewing the websites of some of the 100 top landscaping companies in the industry on an Android smartphone. We gave up after 10 straight sites were not optimized for viewing on a smartphone.

The good news for landscape contractors, generally speaking, is that their websites are not terribly complicated to begin with. Most typically have just a handful of pages, including About Us, Services Offered, Portfolio (photo gallery), Testimonials and Contact Us. Some may also include a blog, an employment opportunities page, and maybe a page for company news and awards.

The point is that your website contains basic information that likely isn't updated on a terribly frequent basis, aside from a blog if you happen to have one. It's also likely that your page layouts aren't terribly elaborate. Thus, creating a mobile version of your website is not as significant an undertaking as it is for some companies.

Tools to help create a mobile version of your website

You should be talking to your webmaster or web developer about what is being done to ensure that your website is working effectively for you on mobile devices. There are also numerous online tools available to help you convert your existing website to a mobile-friendly version. Take these eight, for example, as found on the American Express OPEN discussion forum:

  • Mobify
  • Wirenode
  • Mippin Mobilizer
  • Onbile
  • Winksite
  • MobilePress
  • IWebKit
  • MoFuse

Things to keep in mind when creating a mobile site

While creating a mobile version of your website may not prove to be a terribly complicated process, you do have to keep some things in mind.

First of all, recognize that mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets are much smaller than a computer screen. Thus, you don't want to bog your mobile site down with massive images that will ultimately be shown at a fairly small size. Large image files that may take a while to load will also annoy your site visitor, more than likely. Additionally, think twice about huge, unnecessary audio and/or video files that play automatically. Remember, the mobile site visitor is often in a hurry and looking for specific information. Make his or her visit to your mobile site as pleasant as possible.

On that note, point number two is to recognize that mobile device users are "tappers" as opposed to "typers". Thus, you want to make sure your mobile site has clear, easy-to-use navigation with links that are easily tappable.

The general rule of thumb when designing a mobile website is to provide useful content, but do so in a very user-friendly, concise manner.

Another option is responsive design

There is an alternative to creating a separate mobile version of your existing website. Some companies are simply creating responsively designed websites, period.

A responsively designed website responds to the user and, more specifically, the device on which that user is viewing said website. This eliminates the need to create multiple versions of your website. In other words, as a user switches from a computer to a tablet to a smartphone, the website also automatically switches so that it is portrayed in the proper format on each device. Things like images and big headlines typically scale to best fit browser width, and body text might switch from a few columns to just one, for example.

Without getting too technical, responsive design happens on the "back end" via specific website programming. But even before that actual programming takes place, creating a responsively designed website requires some strategic thinking based on a new way of looking at website design. That's because design is no longer one size fits all. You have to think about how things are going to look on a computer screen vs. a tablet vs. a smartphone, and in landscape vs. portrait configurations.

Again, because the typical landscape company's website is fairly straightforward, developing an effective and versatile responsive design can also be fairly straightforward. But you do have to take some important things into consideration:

Logos and branding. Your logo is a big part of your branding, so you want to ensure that it maintains impact as users switch from a bigger computer screen to a smaller and perhaps narrower smartphone, for example.

Image size and resolution. As people view your site on smaller devices, the images will naturally appear smaller. Thus, you don't want nor need huge, high-resolution image files that take forever to download. Again, without getting too technical, there are programming techniques that allow your site to detect the size of a user's screen and, in turn, load the appropriate low- or high-resolution images.

Navigation. As pointed out earlier, you likely have just a handful of key site navigation elements, such as About Us, Services Offered, Testimonials, etc. That's good, because having too many can create headaches when switching from a wider viewing area to a narrower one. Still, you have to think about what you'll do with your navigation bar in these instances. You could just have it move from the top of the page to the right side, for instance.

Calls to action. Calls to action, such as "contact us for an estimate" or "leave a testimonial", are as important as your branding elements. So again, you need to think about where and how these will show up as a visitor views your site on a narrower device. You certainly don't want these calls to action to scale too small or become lost.

As you can see, responsive design can be a slick way to go about ensuring that your website is mobile-friendly, which is becoming increasingly important in today's marketplace. But there is quite a bit involved from both a planning and programming standpoint. It could very well be that simply creating a mobile version of your website is the way to go. Regardless, you need to start taking steps to do something, starting with asking your webmaster: Is my website mobile-friendly?

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