A standard, one size fit’s all, website design can suffer when it comes to usability if a visitor accesses it through a small screen device such as a mobile phone. Text and images tend to be too small to read, requiring users to zoom in and pan the site left and right, up and down, in order to view all the content. With mobile devices accounted for over 55% of Internet usage (CNN Money 2014), it is increasingly important to tailor your site to this ever growing user base.
A mobile optimized site (responsive design) will adjust it’s layout ‘on the fly’ to fit within a variety of smaller screen widths. At most, users will only have to scroll down for content, with very little need for zooming in. The look and feel of the site should remain mostly intact. As an example, this site is optimized. View it on a smartphone, tablet and laptop/desktop to notice the difference.
The easier a website is to navigate and read, the longer users tend to stay on it and return more often. Users appreciate a site that is designed to adapt to the device they prefer to use. If yours is a business website, you can be sure the competition will eventually take advantage of the benefits of optimization.
Depending on the existing layout of your website, the cost to optimize it for mobile devices, while keeping the same look and feel, can range from a few hundred dollars to many, many thousands of dollars. For a website developer, it can be more difficult to convert an existing site than to create a new site from scratch. If you intend to build a brand new site, today’s top web designers will offer you layouts that they have confidence will be stylish and look their best on small and big screens. Be assured this is no easy feat. However, the overall price of a new website should not rise to include responsive design, and you will surely spend more money if you end up deciding to ‘go mobile’ AFTER your new site has been designed and deployed.
A mobile app allows you to provide your viewers with a stand-alone portal to your content. There is no need to go to your browser and look up your site, however, the user will have to install your app to use it. Additionally, your app will be able to access systems on the user’s mobile device that a website cannot, such as the camera, location information etc. If you have content that many people will be using frequently, the ease of an installed mobile app might be the way to go. The downside for many small businesses, non-profits or individuals is the cost of creating the app, which can be prohibitively high for what would likely have little or no real world advantage.
Most sites do not need the functionality that a mobile app provides and cannot justify the additional cost. A mobile optimized site (responsive design) is much less expensive and feeds off the same information and design as your website. A mobile website can, however, display targeted information for mobile users that is different from the desktop version. Your site is accessed the same way, through a browser at the same address (URL), no matter what device you are using. Visitors can bookmark your site, if they wish, to access it directly off their mobile device desktop. It will be easy to view and navigate on small screens, and this alone adds real value to your visitors experience with you and your business / mission.