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Mobile Devices

by Brad Smith, Jet iT

By now you have probably thought about how your website displays on the small screen of all those mobile devices out there. Once again we are seeing the world of web design in constant change - since the internet began it has always been  in a state of constant change.

Many sites out there have been built before the proliferation of mobile web devices and are therefore designed for standard computer screens which unfortunatelty make them very clunky to view - let alone use/navigate through - on those devices. Worse still, if the site uses Flash, then that part of the site simply won't display at all on most Smartphones.

You may be thinking that not many people would view your site on their mobile anyway.  Well, there is increasing evidence that this is not the case and you need to seriously consider the fact that if you don't 'mobilise' your site, you could already be missing out on business opportunities.

Here are some of those statistics;

  • 44% of New Zealanders already have access to a smart phone and that number is only growing
  • 46% of these people access the internet EVERY day on their phone
  • 24% of mobile phone users would rather give up TV than lose their phones

Internet access via mobile devices has changed people's behaviour in New Zealand and around the world.

Gone are the days when someone ‘surfed' the internet as the sole purpose activity. Today we do it while we're watching TV, at events, in coffee shops, bus stops, at airports and stations etc. And this is done generally on mobile devices such as smartphones and/or tablets.  Marketers need to consider a multimedia approach to their marketing so that when someone sees a TV ad, or a billboard, they're encouraged to immediately go on line and follow the call to action. QR codes are a good example of this and you'll see these increasingly on product labels in shops. Engage the prospective customer and your chances of getting the sale increase significantly.

Mobile users are even accessing the internet whilst they are shopping. Increasingly shoppers use their phones in-store to compare prices, and then either haggle in store or go to a competitor to get the better deal.

  • 66% of smartphone users have researched their purchase online via their mobile device
  • 27% of those have directly purchased on it. 

Of all internet users, mobile users are the one to target with sharing social media platforms as they are big social networkers with over 77% of them being regular visitors to social network sites. Purchase on your site, option to like and share the recent purchase on their social network site and voila - all their friendsnow potentially know about your business. (modern day word of mouth)

You might be kicking yourself over the fact all these arguments are telling you that you should instigate a redesign of a site that you've spent $1000's on only a year or so ago.  But think of this as an opportunity: most websites should get a fresken up every 2-4 years anyway and this gives you a great opportunity to take in a deep breath and review the design, goals and usability of your website as well as see what new and wonderful tricks and features you can add that were not available to you (or your designer) only a few years ago (e.g. HTML5 form elements).

One benefit we have seen from taking a 'mobile first' design approch to web design at Jet iT is that it almost forces us to sit back and ask ourselves such things as "is this feature necessary to our website user experience?" - as a result we are seeing many designs coming through that are clean, uncluttered and very user friendly.

OK, so now you understand why there is a need for mobile, what are you choices?

Basically, there are 2:

  • Employ your designer to adapt your existing site to display well on both large and small screens. This is often called 'Responsive Design' and uses CSS media queries to change layout based on the screen size that is detected.  Simple effects are to increase the size of 'click' buttons to account for our big finger tips (rule of thumb [pardon the pun] is minimum height of 40 pixels) and revert multi columned blocks to single column.
    If you are lucky, this can be done by making changes only to your CSS - if you have Flash elements or complex navigation structure, you may need to change the HTML semantic order as well.
    Based on the above, you should have an idea as to whether your sites can be retrospectively fitted with Responsive CSS; you can always discuss this with your web designer (or contact us at Jet iT for an obligation free audit).
  • Build a mobile specific site. This is particularly useful where you establish that the needs of the mobile user are distinctly different from the needs of the desktop user. For example your mobile site might consist mainly of specially created landing pages that people enter by scanning in a product QR code – perhaps taking them to information to encourage the sale, or to a competition etc. Another example is that the mobile site might focus more on the Store Locator and less on company history, details of the head office and key management etc.  Making the decision to go for a mobile specifc sub-site is a big one and you should gain the opinion of experts to layout the pros and cons (and costs) before making that step.  As I have mentioned above, going through this process can often lead to a 'simlification' of your entire website that results in better usability.

So the mobile web world is upon us.  It is exciting times for the world of web design and I encourage you to look upon it as a great opportunity to enhance your online presence, get ahead of the pack and begin to realise a return on investment from the web.


Stats Source: 2012 (www.ourmobileplanet.com) A Google Commissioned study of 1000 people aged 18 – 64

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