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The 12 Fundamentals Of Designing & Marketing Mobile Websites

Mobile web marketing is projected to rise exponentially as more and more users acquire high-end mobiles allowing them to access websites on-the-go. More than half a billion people across the globe use their mobile phones to access the web. And with mobile devices quickly gaining popularity over traditionally PC’s, user counts are expected to increase dramatically.

Simply put – your company needs a mobile website.

The minute you get down to it, you’ll realize that a mobile website can be much more taxing to create than compared to a conventional web portal. This is primarily because of the newer technologies involved, the sheer diversity seen across mobile phone models and perhaps due to the significant departure from traditional website design models.

Keeping this in mind, the following tips will help you develop an edge over the competition with a successful mobile web portal.

1. Keep It Functional

While regular websites are designed to convey every last bit of information to the user while presenting as attractive a package as possible, mobile websites are designed to be accessed on-the-go.

That means they provide exactly what the user is likely to need from your website and little else. There is less emphasis placed on a glamorous façade and more on functional design.

2. Layout Matters

Given the reduced screen size of mobile devices, navigation tends to be vertical rather than horizontal. That means you’d be more successful using a single column layout rather than a multi-column spread.

3. Minimize Hypertext

Hypertext is almost non-existent on mobile websites. This is because links are too small for users to comfortable click on using a mobile interface. And face it – a URL looks ridiculous when enlarged. Instead look to large buttons and tabs to accomplish many if not all of the hypertext functions on a mobile webpage.

4. Reduce Graphical Content

A key problem is bandwidth. While desktop users are able to fully tap the benefits of the 4G wave, mobile surfers aren’t quite as fortunate. The limited bandwidth available even on 4G-enabled cell phones translates into a need for reduced graphical content on a mobile website. The company logo and color schemes are essential inclusions, but little else is.

5. Flash Vs. HTML5

Animated intros can enhance the appeal of your website, but can also drastically increase loading times, especially on older phones. Also, almost 45% of mobile browsing occurs on Apple products that do not support Flash. Consider doing away with Flash altogether and using HTML 5 as your primary tool when creating any kind of mobile website graphics.

Conversely, since legacy (or soon-to-be-legacy) browsers may not support HTML5, you may wish to create a back-up Flash intro. User devices will often pick up and use the sequence that they are most compatible with, saving you a lot of heartache over lost market segments.

6. Simplify Navigation

Navigation is something that should form an integral part of your website building strategy. When users access a mobile website, they aren’t really looking to experience the full flavor of your company’s various marketing strategies. Instead, they want to complete a certain task within as short a time as possible.

Look at design options that make it easier for a user to locate what they need without having to delve deeply into a website. On most mobile websites, contextual and local navigation options are discarded in favor of a more robust and service-oriented global navigation interface.

When users are completing a multi-step process (such as making a purchase), incorporate the title of each step on the button that leads to it. This will keep users aware of how far along they are in the process and eliminates the need for ‘progress indicators’. Additionally, breadcrumb trails and footers are also minimized to the most relevant links available, rather than a comprehensive list.

That said, all information on your site should be a maximum of three pages deep. More than three pages and you run the risk of frustrated users getting lost in your website without having found exactly what they need.

7. Capitalize On Location

Mobile web marketing offers a number of strategies to help you directly enhance sales. Location tracking is one of them. Since most mobiles can auto-detect the location of a user, this allows you to send out location-specific offers, opportunities and search results. This works even better if users have already indicated their preferences, allowing you to return personalized results.

8. The Social Media Side

Social media is an excellent mobile marketing opportunity with 2 in every 10 users accessing a social network via a mobile device. Since most social media already have well-designed mobile portals, the emphasis needs to be on the content of your page.

Contests, submission forums and other interactive strategies work exceedingly well on a mobile platform due to the versatility and portability of the device.

9. Integrated Functionality

In the heady maelstrom of technology that goes into a smart phone we tend to forget their basic functions – phone calls. Integrate your mobile website with calling and text messaging by placing your toll-free international phone number on the site. This allows users to telephone order a product or engage a service at the press of a button (i.e., without having to manually dial the number).

10. Apps, Apps & More Apps!

Creating useful applications that pertain to your product or service are a great way to enhance your brand image and drive traffic to your site. For example if you run a travel portal, try creating an app that allows users to organize their travel plans, schedules, etc. Make sure the app features an easy to use interface and that branding is prominent.

11. Percentages Vs. Pixels

One of the biggest hurdles in mobile web marketing is cross-compatibility. Smart phones come in a vast array of models and screen sizes can differ considerably. This can spell disaster for you website when it is only optimized towards a particular resolution.

However, you can bypass this problem by using percentages instead of pixels to determine the size of various layout elements in HTML. This will give you a fluid layout that can readily adapt to multiple browsers and screen sizes.

12. M-SEO!

Mobile SEO is still a nascent sphere of marketing and that alone is plenty of reason to get straight into it. A lot of mobile search engines still have to get their kinks ironed out but standard SEO practices should do you a world of good in the long run. Also, ensure that you follow W3C’s accessibility best practices. This makes your site content accessible to nearly every platform, further streamlining your marketing efforts.

If you diligently follow these strategies, your mobile website should develop into a lucrative marketing portal that will net you more customers by the day. However, keep in mind that the mobile marketing is still in its infancy. With the development of newer technologies and increased usage, your strategies will have to be versatile and quickly adaptable to sudden change.