The Short Answer Is Yes
Your customers have cell phones, you can assume they will use them to access your website, and it’s up to you to give them a useable presentation. The average screen resolution on a smart phone or cell phone is considerably smaller than the typical desktop or laptop. This means that your website, which you spent hours designing to look amazing on a those larger screens, will undoubtedly not translate to these smaller screens. At best, mobile viewers of your site will constantly be zooming in and out, scrolling left and right, and ultimately become frustrated and leave. You need to present them with a quality experience, giving them a site that is designed for their mobile device, present them with useable and accessible content, and provide data that downloads quickly. Ignoring this population of your site users will alienate a rapidly growing community.
What’s the difference?
A mobile website goes far beyond a “mini” version of your website. Design is certainly a big aspect of the mobile website, the considerations go far beyond that. Mobile browsers are a different type of user, typically with a short attention span than their desktop counter-parts. In fact, a Neilson Net Rating study showed that the average web browsing session lasted 56 minutes, while the average mobile browsing session was less than 5 minutes. Why such a dramatic difference? Most mobile users are on the go (hence the “mobile” part of mobile users), so they don’t have the luxury of sitting down for an hour of browsing. Secondly, and probably a bigger factor, is that there is still a large number of website that are not optimized for mobile users, thus making it much more difficult for mobile users to browse. If statistics have shown us anything about website users, we know their attention span is limited. Add to that a difficult user experience, and you can count on losing that site user.
Designing a mobile website consists of 3 important aspects. First, the design of the site needs to be streamlined and designed to work on the much smaller screens of mobile devices. This is important because a poorly adapted mobile site, or the lack thereof, can be the driving factor for a mobile user to bail. Secondly, the content of the site needs to be organized and restructured for a quicker browsing session, especially for a user on the go who may need quick answers. Contact info should always be very prominent, as this is often a target for mobile browsers. Lastly, there are tools and functionality that should be added to a mobile site, as well as functionality that should never exist on a mobile website.
But I just got the latest and greatest smart phone…
The technology is constantly changing, and new devices are coming out every day. You might be thinking that the mobile browsers will eventually converge with traditional web browsers and this will become a mute point. While the newest devices are starting to bridge some of the gaps, there is still a significant difference between the two, and most people don’t and won’t have the newest technologies. At least not until they are old technologies.
I don’t use my phone to browse the internet, and neither do any of my friends…
Statistics don’t lie, mobile browsing is growing at an astounding rate. Predictions call for mobile browsing to take over traditional internet browsing by 2015. The fact is that you now have a new audience that wants access to your website, your content, and your brand, and that audience is recruiting at a rapid rate. If you ignore the mobile community, the best case will be that site users will have a difficult time using your site, and will most likely abandon the process. Worst case, they will feel ignored and disregarded, and they will abandon you.