Mobile Website Design: Do I Need to Create Mobile Versions of My Website?

In a meeting today at an SEO agency where I perform research and development, a potential client leaned over to me to ask …

Does our website pass for a mobile website?

…since it looks the same on my Blackberry as it does on a PC?

Mobile WebsiteWe were discussing local search marketing, which overlaps with mobile search marketing.  I gave a pretty quick response since we were whispering under other people, but here are the main questions to answer when deciding if you need to invest in mobile website design

  • Does your website use Flash?
    • Flash does not render on iphones or ipad.  If your website degrades nicely with an image replacing a flash banner, that will pass for a mobile device.  If you turn off Flash in your  browser and it looks like crap, you probably need a mobile version.
  • Can you read and navigate the website on a mobile phone?
    • His website showed everything, but you had to zoom in and pan around to read anything.
    • Are the buttons and points of action easy to read and use?

Mobile Website Verses Mobile Friendly Website

Think less about rendering technicalities and more about if the interface is mobile friendly.  A mobile friendly website will generally have less text and big buttons for the main points of action, in a horizontal row that you can scroll through – no zooming/panning needed.  Points of action (phone number, address, button for map/directions, etc) are all laid out on separate lines with enough space to put a finger on each one.

Example:  look at a Wikipedia article on your phone.  You’ll see a paragraph of intro text followed by buttons to read more from the various areas.  You don’t just scroll through the whole article in one page.  Content for background, history, resources, etc is replaced by a big button for each.

You can create a free mobile website using the tools in Bing Business Portal.  It is a template based mobile website, branded with Bing where you control the colors and content.  However the options are pretty limited.  At least it gives a basic start for a mobile website.

Mobile Website SEO Technical Issues

JavaScript can be used to detect the browser. If it is a mobile browser, JavaScript can redirect to the mobile website.  A link/button can also be provided for the user to switch between mobile and standard website.  We can avoid duplicate content by using canonical tags on the mobile site pointing to the standard site.  If you use a sub-domain, like http://mobile.website.com, search engines are working on eliminating duplicate content issues between mobile and standard.

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