Anyone who has had the misfortune to view a website on a mobile device before it has been optimized for smartphones and tablets is well aware of how annoying it is. Between waiting for graphics to load, stuttering through streaming videos as they buffer, and having to scroll not only up and down pages to read content, but also from side to side, users are likely to give up and go to competitors that have had the foresight to make their web pages mobile-ready. With a lot of web traffic coming from handheld devices these days, anyone who wants to keep visitors coming in and profit from the rankings and sales that they represent really needs to create pages that are compatible with the mobile space. But aside from the programming mechanics that actually allow mobile users to view your content, what can you do to optimize your site for viewing on smartphones and tablets? Here are a few tips to help you out.
- Layout. Perhaps the most important distinction when it comes to mobile-ready web pages is that they tend to feature a single-column format when it comes to the layout of content. This is crucial for viewing on mobile devices, many of which simply don’t have the screen real estate to support a multi-column presentation. Unless you want to make mobile viewers scroll sideways, you really need to find a way to optimize the layout so that users can simply scroll down the page to read content.
- Prioritizing. When you consider that anyone visiting websites via mobile devices is probably doing so on the go, you can imagine that this means they are not prepared to spend a ton of time perusing your content. So you need to prioritize by putting the most important information at the top of the page, whether that means placing recent titles at the head of your home page or putting core information for an article within the first block of text rather than spinning out a long intro. In short, the placement of content matters.
- Use of video. With 4G networks expanding, online video content is becoming easier for some mobile users to stream, but you shouldn’t rely on this when optimizing your site. In most cases, you’re better off removing graphic and video content that can slow loading of pages, but should you choose to include it you should at least make sure that your videos are compressed for faster download and streaming.
- Scope of content. Most people using a cell phone to surf the web are not going to sit and read an article that is 500-1,000 words (or more) in length. The mobile crowd wants to get their information in a concise format that is broken into easily digestible bites. So you’ll almost certainly want to trim the length of articles and consider linking to full stories for those that want to read more.
- Conversion options. With a wide array of operating systems for mobile devices (about half a dozen in the U.S. alone), not to mention different screen sizes and dimensions to contend with, creating a universal, mobile-friendly site is not going to be easy. It’s sort of like trying to produce standardized screen protectors for these devices when there are so many different gadgets to hit. Providing conversion options may help you to secure coverage on more handsets, but you may still have to target your efforts to hit the operating systems and handheld devices that are the most popular.