Do You Need A Mobile Version Of Your Website?

Mitch JoelPosted by

No. You do not need a mobile version of your website.

Creating a mobile version of your website is like creating a website that is a digital version of your brochure. It’s amazing to speak with business professionals and have them ask (multiple times every day) about whether or not they should have a mobile version of their website. The reason you do not need a mobile version of your website is because mobile is not the same as the Web. From platform to technology to how the consumer interacts with the media, the only thing that that the Web and mobile have in common is that they are both (still) new media.

Mobile is not a smaller version of a website.

Mobile must be treated as a beast unto itself. There are varying devices in market from mobile browsers that lack a lot of functionality to smartphones that offer unique browser experiences (think iPhone and Android). On top of that , iPad and the new tablet revolution add a whole other layer of complexity into the the equation. The way someone accesses the content is fundamentally different from a Web experience, but most importantly, more and more consumers are using mobile as the first gateway to find out about your brand.

Mobile is gaining market share.

… and with that market share comes a lot of attention. Is the shift from a personal computer world to a mobile world happening fast? Deal with this: according to IDC, 101 million smartphones were sold in Q4, versus 92 million PCs (more on that here: Business Insider – The Smartphone Market Is Now Bigger Than The PC Market). We are quickly moving to a world where all of our connected (and interconnected) devices will be mobile (most of them already are) and that will be our primary way we connect to information, one another and yes, brands as well. In the MediaPost news item, Mobile Rocks, the message is clear: "during the past year, technology improvements, device innovations and growing mobile media consumption have laid the foundation for the development of a strong mobile ecosystem. The challenge for marketers and brands will be how to successfully navigate through one of the most complex and rapidly evolving mediums the world has ever seen. The next year should be one of the most exciting in mobile history."

Mobile is not the new Internet.

Mobile is something completely different. It’s portable. Voice still plays a factor in it. It will not be manipulated by a keyboard or a mouse (it will be touch). The content and context must be easy to use, deliver results fast and give immediate value to the consumer. On top of that, mobile will (quickly) become the default platform of connectivity. So, once again, you do not need a mobile version of your website… you need to be thinking about your connected consumer and how you are providing them with the information, resources and content when they want it, where they want it and how they want it.

Mobile is not a smaller, lighter version of what you’re doing online. Is it?

36 comments

  1. Mitch – thanks for putting that into words. I have recently been frustrated by companies who don’t grasp this concept and also impressed by others who do.
    I was shopping for a relatively large purchase (new TV) and one brand had a sign in the store that said ‘check us out on your smartphone’. I immediately did just that. The address on the sign took me to their main website. Of course it didn’t load quickly and was difficult to navigate. The result was a frustrated consumer. If there had been no sign there would have been no frustration.
    Contrast that with the email from Starbucks that I was reading while standing in the Starbucks line. That email has a ‘read on your mobile device’ link at the top. Which means I could read about their new features while I was in line, and then spend more money than I intended.
    I hope this doesn’t sound like a rant, or a plug for Starbucks – it is just the concrete examples from my life.

  2. AMEN.
    What most people are suggesting is that your site be easier to load and read on mobile devices – i.e. fewer images with large file sizes, videos that are reduced to fit on the screen, text that’s easier to read.
    But, I believe all of that is what we should do anyway. Look at your site, Mitch – clean, easy to read, not a lot of clutter. Probably does very well on a mobile device. Mine? Same. I like to add in images for illustrative purposes, but I make sure they are small in file size.
    Mobility simply means I can take you with me, not that you should change because of it.

  3. Recently, someone e-mailed us stating they hated our website because there is too much white space. There is something to be said for giving peoples’ eyes a break I replied.
    With mobile devices becoming the norm for web connectivity, there is even less of a need for web pages to be so busy. If you offer people great content, they will keep coming back…even if you don’t have a dancing baby animation any longer 🙂

  4. Thanks for this! I’m certainly one of the confused people you are referring to, I admit I am not that savvy in terms of the internet – that’s why I’m going to take IT courses for university.
    So basically, what you guys mean is that, you just need a website that’s simple and flexible in layout which can be loaded on the mobile phone.
    Now I got that in mind.

  5. Mitch, thanks so very much for this information,concise and very resourceful.
    Points taken.

  6. You are right that the mobile experience is completely different from the way people view the web on a computer. More and more people are buying smart phones and businesses that want to stay relevant need to keep up. It’s important to cater to the needs of these users.

  7. Great post Mitch. Do you think there is value in understanding the mobile behaviors of your target before deciding how to execute? (eg – what if your segments are laggards and not currently connected)? Can there be a one size fits all solution for every company? Or do you want to have a presence for when they become connected? Interested in hearing your thoughts.

  8. The best example of a wrong use of mobile is when you visit those websites offering a mobile version which is severely limited compared to the real website. A true “mobile version” is a whole different thing, and one of the best examples of this is the iPhone web Gmail application from Google. I say application because that’s what is it, despite it being “just” a website. A complete different application with its own logic behind it, one that works flawlessly.

  9. I agree that firms need a mobile OPTIMIZED website.
    As you mention, not all desktop content is suitable for a mobile device. We looked at what was important to our audience and developed a solution that made relevant parts of our website easily accessible to a broad range of mobile devices. Is it a perfect solution? No – we have room for improvement, but we needed to jump into the waters so that we could start learning.

  10. Oh my. I am an ex-SEO and used to get so frustrated with companies that think they need to create mobile sites. I even blogged about this once, 2 or 3 years ago. Back then I didn’t see the need for a mobile site, especially not a ‘limited’ one, and I still don’t.
    But companies will punt the mobile site because it’s another billable item so…

  11. Mitch – the most important part of this whole piece is your last paragraph: Mobile is not the new Internet. That should be tattoo’d onto every marketers forehead! The power of mobile is context: The experience should be different the closer I get to your place of business. For example, if I’m clearly on the road and I hit up your website, take me directly to your contact information or directions from where I am because that’s probably what I need the most.

  12. One consideration: In light of Farmer/Panda Algo changes, Google recently revealed that there is a unique index for mobile. In terms of behavior, everything begins and ends with search. If a site is not indexed correctly, said site will not be found– a market opportunity lost.
    Also consider user experience. My current, biggest pet peeve is with restaurants. It’s my experience that any restaurant worth going to requires a reservation. It’s also been my experience, that as locally sourced food proliferates, menus change daily. Now try accessing a restaurant’s site that utilizes flash from an iPad or iPhone. Even if there is no flash on the site, restaurants often use a parallel process to produce and publish their menus: creating a pdf for print to be used in the restaurant and as an upload to the site. pdf’s are vector files. Vector files do not index. pdf’s are also a helluva pain in the ass to view on a mobile device, often requiring additional steps just to see what’s for dinner.

  13. Mitch you are correct! You don’t need a mobile version of your current website. You need a version adapting to the type of mobile user and it also needs to accomplish different aspects than your “internet” site currently does. It’s like saying you need an internet version of your brochure. They are two different applications, therefore they need to be looked at from a different strategy.

  14. I built mobile versions of around 20 of my sites and my users thanked me. I’m also having success monetizing those mobile sites. You see the thing is I’m not trying to justify if its a good idea or if it’s the future or not. As a web developer it was a breeze to do it, so why not? I have happy users and more money coming in because of it. Win Win. It’s not this big debate that people are making it out to be. It’s just another channel… utilize it or not.

  15. I agree, you don’t need a whole new mobile site. the WordPress Small Biz Theme from expand2web has a mobile enabled homepage, which automatically displays two touch options, call and directions. My clients love this!

  16. I second Eileen Lonergan’s comments. I’ve built a number of websites using Expand2Web’s small biz wordpress theme; a benefit of the newest versions definitely is the ability to create a mobile version of your existing website at the same time, in a matter of minutes.

  17. Brands should prepare for this type of marketing. I’m pretty sure that when people uses mobile phones they do not use it the same way with PC. This is a new challenge for brands out there.

  18. Yeah, for sure the text answers to the question in header. Its a stupid question anyways.
    Why do people go to Website? For the information, which is in whatever format. And accessing the content should be an Experience as well as the content should be an Experience too; it shouldn’t matter which platform you’re using.
    How often you get nowadays Woah! -effect while digging up information or surfing? 😉 Not too often, as we’re still in the newspaper age, I’d say.

  19. Some people like Jason have already mentioned this, but isn’t it really a question of usability? If you can transition your website or a portion of it (see Southwest Airlines) into a user-friendly mobile experience, then you absolutely need a mobile version of your website.
    Just playing around with the words and phrases there. It’s sort of semantics, but I get where you’re coming from. Usability is king. If people can’t easily use your product or your site, they will find another product or site to use.

  20. @MITCH
    Am I the only one who – after reading your article here – feels that what you’re actually trying to say here is …
    “When making a mobile version of your site – do not think of it as a smaller version of your pc’s version, instead treat it as it is ( new kind of platform and media.) – then do whatever you can under that new perspective to make your mobile site deliver the content to your users.”

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