How to Make Your Website Accessible to Mobile Devices
Web enabled smartphones are here to stay and are growing rapidly. The iPhone takes up as much as 69% of smartphone traffic, and smartphones account for 15% of the entire US mobile phone market. The opportunity to optimize for the mobile Internet is right now.
Mobile Web Indicators
Mobile Web indicators can be split into four segments:
- Usage – Usage is primarily about data – how much? how many? how fast? The data can include text messaging, MMS, WAP users accessing email, games, reading news, and people using their mobile network to access the Internet from their personal computers.
- Network – Network performance indicators can be split into two groups – high-speed mobile subscribers and Internet-enabled handsets.
- Traffic – Traffic involves SMS and MMS sent — that is, the number of Short/Multimedia messages sent from mobile handsets.
- Revenue – Revenue is the cost of all of the above.
So, why are these indicators important? Because they are the indicators that you have to take into consideration when optimizing your website for the mobile Web.
You may have a content-rich website that is easily accessible for people with desktop or laptop computers, but when it comes down to a screen size being a matter of a few inches, there’s only so much real estate for delivering your message.
Improving Your Website for the Mobile Web
WordPress MobilePress Plugin
Those who use WordPress to power their blog or website are fortunate, because there’s an excellent plugin called WordPress MobilePress Plugin. The plugin detects when a user is visiting your site with a mobile device and presents an interface which is more suitable for viewing with a smaller screen.
Tips for Improving Accessibility On a Mobile Phone
Users accessing the Web on a mobile device want information and they want it quick. They don’t want to wait any longer than they have to in order to get to the information they’re seeking. Here are some tips to help you optimize a website’s interface when it’s viewed via a mobile Web browser:
- Sites which use correct information architecture are already one step ahead. A site with defined headers, content and navigation should display correctly on almost any mobile device.
- You have a couple of choices when it comes to how your website will appear to those using the mobile web. You should start off by creating a separate stylesheet for mobile users. From there, you can restrict how the website looks by omitting style options such as floats, decorative images, tables, or over-complicated nav menus. You can also restrict your website to a one-column layout so that the content is the primary user focus.
- If you know your users are likely to be accessing your site via their mobile devices, be diligent when using images. Images take up more bandwidth and generally take longer to load. You should include the ALT attribute with your images. Not only is it considered standard practice in Web design, but if a mobile device can’t render an image, having an ALT attribute enables the user to know what the image was about. Quite often, restricting the usage of over-stylized and nonessential images improves a website’s loading time significantly.
Mobile Search Engine Considerations
The importance of the mobile Web hasn’t been lost on Google and Bing. Both search engines have recently released mobile-centric features that aid people when performing searches on mobile platforms.
Microsoft recently added some new features for those browsing on mobile devices. The mobile Bing search includes updates for flight status, NFL details and changes to their user interface. The flight status allows you to enter an airline with a flight number and receive the most recent departure and landing times. The NFL feature allows a user to search for team or player details and get updated (real time) news as it happens during a game.
Google meanwhile has made things easier for site owners to add Google-powered search boxes to their websites – Google Custom Search formats search results for mobile devices.
A Google search box on a website, when accessed by mobile users, will see search results which have been formatted specifically for the mobile platform. As a website owner, you can choose to have the results show up on a Google-hosted mobile results page, or you can do some configuration and host your own version of the results (useful when you want to show consistency across your website).
People who use their handheld devices to access the Internet have different habits than users sitting at home with their laptop or desktop computers. Whether you realize it or not, the people sitting in their cars looking for reviews about your restaurant are at a critical stage of information retrieval. They want the information immediately. If your site doesn’t give them the necessary information quickly and easily, they will be go somewhere else.