Saturday 20 November 2010

Website in my pocket..

Every few years, something big happens in the online industry that starts to change the way we do things. The product making the biggest noise in the last few years is around portable web devices - namely smart phones.

A smart phone is a device, that although sold as a phone, largely through communications carriers, offers a host of other functions with the addition of web interactivity being at the forefront. With 174 million sold in 2009 alone (a 15% increase over 2008), the world is on the uptake at a steady rate - but what does it mean for your business?

The non-support of flash from the iPhone was the hottest of topics for a while, but the biggest defining change is the viewing area.

The ability to access the internet any where & at any time, at the push of a button and at virtually no cost, means that people are turning to the web for everything. With a GPS system in most devices, there's no longer a need to remember directions and there's no need to write down addresses or phone numbers any more, because if you forget, a quick search on your phone will give you the answer.

As people rely more on their smart phone, they start to use it as their primary device for sourcing information. If that's the case - what happens when they get to your website? Do you offer a mobile-optimised view so that they can still access your information? Are you considering how they interact with you when they're on the road.

Lets take a look at the Digerati Solutions website (a great place to go if you're looking to build a new website or refresh your existing one by the way).

If you look at the site using your browser on a standard computer screen (1024x768) it may look something like this.

If you look at it on an iPhone  it looks like this...

You will notice that although slightly squashed, the primary content is still readable and the information on offer can clearly be seen where to navigate or browse . This is an example of a design that can work in both formats with little real need for change.

Most retail or service businesses will not be so lucky. If we take a site with a lot more content and a lot more happening on the page, you get a different story. Here's a quick look at a few places that have clearly not addressed the issue.

As you can see, its an awkward experience for a user to interact with the site without zooming into a smaller region, at which point they lose the context of the full page.

If your site is similar to this, you may want to consider getting Digerati to help you develop a smart phone optimised version of your site. This basically rearranges the content on your site to hide some of the larger graphic or display areas, and show a clear path to the content that users may be looking for on the run, such as contact phone, store location or functional areas like shipping or order information. There's no need to tell users to visit a different URL, the website automatically determines if a user has a portable device and sends them to the appropriate layout.

Some smart phone optimised sites offer a revised version of ALL of the content, but some cut down the site and only show the key areas, or the most visited areas of the website. Here are a few examples for you to compare with the full version (click on the image to see the full version). You will notice that in these examples, they don't try to show everything you would see on the full website, but take the most important parts of the site and create a streamlined version.

The key for each business is to decide what is appropriate. It's not good enough to simply look at the existing stats to see how many customers use mobile devices, but at the same time, you need to seriously look at your key clients and target clients to determine what is going to make like easier for them - or what's going to make you stand out as a business they engage with over your competitor.

Talk to Digerati today about an appropriate solution for your website - Lets make a website!