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8 Simple Tips to Make Your Website Mobile-Friendly

My neighbor is 72. She uses her iPhone for shopping.
Do I have to say more about ensuring your small business website is mobile friendly? It's fairly easy, and you don't need to develop an app or spend thousands on programming and site redesign. Just take care of a few basics:

  • Focus on critical needs. Mobile users typically won't browse for more than a few minutes. Most just want a specific piece of information. Make sure major services, major products, phone numbers, addresses -- the basics of what you do and who you are -- are easy to find and view. A friend who runs a chain of retail stores estimates that at least 30% of mobile visitors to his site only come for locations, phone numbers, and store hours.
  • Take out the Flash. Flash is cool in normal browsers but won't display on many mobile devices. Consider removing Flash on pages mobile users are likely to visit; if you can't, use Javascript, embed YouTube links, or ask your Web designer for other possible workarounds.
  • Limit images. While product photos are important, "atmosphere" images are irritating to mobile users and typically increase page load times. Mobile users are more interested in the fast food approach to website visits: They know what they want, they want it fast, and they won't pay (in this case, in terms of time and use of browsing) for ambiance. Make sure critical pages are to the point and clutter free.
  • Simplify navigation. Links are not always easy to "click" on a smart phone, so a cluttered navigation scheme is definitely frustrating. (Admit it; you've occasionally struggled to click the right link on your mobile device.) Keep the number of links to a minimum and make overall navigation easy and intuitive. Don't expect any mobile users to "figure out" how your site works; they'll leave instead.
  • Avoid forms when possible. Forms are a pain to fill out on smart phones (at least they are for me.) If you must use forms, only ask for the information you absolutely need.
  • Take advantage of plugins. If your website was built using a CMS (content management system), check out the mobile plugins available. Some are free, others cost less than $50. A good plugin will optimize your site for mobile viewers without the need for a manual re-design.
  • Use CSS. Cascading Style Sheets can control the look and feel of your site, ensuring it appears the way you want it to across multiple browsers and platforms. If your site wasn't built using CSS, it makes sense to do so even if you aren't worried about being mobile-friendly. Your content can stay the same, but how it is displayed will change based on the device and browser used to view it.
  • Test. Check out your site on a number of devices. And try some of the online testing sites, like this one. Never assume your site looks great or works well across multiple platforms and devices, because it probably doesn't -- and if it doesn't, you may lose potential customers.
Related: Photo courtesy flickr user judy breck, CC 2.0
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