Six tips to make your site mobile-friendly

by Teresa Rodriguez Barnada

Only four months to the end of 2012 and if the predictions are true, by the start of 2013 there should be 1.7 billion mobile web users.  For small business owners this means lots of potential customers accessing your site on a much smaller screen and via a much slower connection.  So you need to be prepared for them and ensure that when they knock at your door their experience in your mobile site is as seamless as it is on your conventional site - no squeezing and stretching images, no unreadable text or image overload.

How? 

The magic of technology can do part of the work for you. But before you install any plugins or tools, there are a number of other items to consider.   

Chef happy with his business plan


1. Content

Mobile devices limit the amount of space you have to get your message across, so be clear but compelling – deliver a message that is easy to understand, that reflects who you are in just a few but engaging words. Headlines are key, so it’s important to spend some time making your headlines catchier.

Make your content scannable and break up long blocks of texts to ensure legibility.

2. Style  

Step one, throw all the clutter away. Visually busy sites are hard enough to read on a large screen so don’t expect your mobile readers to hang around if your site looks cluttered and chaotic.

Two, be brand-consistent:  Don’t create a site that looks and feels different to your desktop site as it will not only confuse your customers but it will transmit an inconsistent brand and image. 

Also, remember that the variety of mobile devices available today is such that you need to take into account all types of  browsers, screen sizes, connection speeds, ect.  Because you can’t predict what type of device your customers will be accessing your site from, when styling your mobile site it’s best you use CSS to format elements with relative units (“em”, %) and try to avoid absolute or fixed units such as pixels or points. If you use fixed units, the user won’t be able to scale the text to facilitate legibility. Equally, to be safe, it’s probably best to stay away from Flash or Javascript and rely solely on html/css standards. 

3. Images

You may consider limiting the number of images you use on your mobile site because  someone reading your content on a really slow connection in a very small screen will not appreciate images that take forever to load and appear blurred in most cases (because of DPI problems). 

Don’t forget to resize images to ensure they take up to 90% less time to load than on a desktop site.  

4. Navigation

Minimising all scrolling and page transitions and offering clear and distinct ways to navigate through the site, will ensure your readers find it easier to get to the content you want them to. 

5. Detection

Your site needs to be able to tell who is reaching you via a mobile device in order to direct them to your mobile version. How do you do that?  Software.  WURFL, for instance.  The Wireless Universal Resource File (WURFL) is an open source project which collects information about all of the different mobile devices in use. It is constantly being updated, so as long as you keep your WURFL definitions up-to-date you don’t have to worry about your detection scripts not recognising new devices. 

6. The magic of technology

Once your basics are in place, technology can make your conversion a lot easier.  bMobilized, for instance, instantly converts your URL into a mobile website, optimising it for any mobile operating system or browser (at the cost of $5 a month).  
If you use WordPress to share your expertise, you can also transform your site into a mobile-friendly version with a plugin like WP Touch, but there are lots of other plugins out there that can help you get your site mobile-friendly in no time. 

Teresa es lingüista y especialista en comunicación intercultural, con un masters de resolución de conflictos interculturales y otro en traducción e interpretación. También ha formado parte de la comunidad de Pymes, dirigiendo una empresa de traducciones e interpretaciones en Malasia y una empresa de catering en Sídney, Australia. En la actualidad, Teresa es la directora de redacción de Hotfrog, así como editora, escritora y traductora en el Hotfrog Small Business Hub. Además Teresa tiene sus propios blogs No-mad, y Digital cultures and translation.

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