The goal of “One Web” is to create, as far as is reasonable, a comparable web user experience regardless of which platform a visitor uses. This doesn’t mean the content must be identical on desktops and handhelds – content can be adapted for mobile devices. There are some cases where you may want to narrow the features and focus on specific things users do when they’re on their smartphones, as opposed to when they’re on their desktop computers.
So, when is it better to create a separate, optimized, mobile-only version for your website?
If you determine that your users can’t or don’t want to use all the information contained on your site, or there’s some specific information that mobile users would be more likely to want, you should consider creating a version of your site created just for handheld devices. Here are a few cases when your website is a perfect candidate:
1. Your users need specific information…now!
If your site is a destination for travelers (airline passengers, rail commuters, people driving somewhere) they may be searching for a small bit of important information (a gate change, a train schedule, a map). They probably aren’t looking to read lengthy reference material, look at rich images, or interact with a Flash module. In this case, the mobile version of your site can serve up just the information this type of customer wants, with the rest of your company information on the full version of your site.
2. Your website is data-heavy.
Accessing data on handhelds can be very slow on low-bandwidth mobile networks. And, it can be expensive if your customers are charged according to the amount of data they send and receive. If your site features lots of images, graphics, or Flash it might be best to create a “lite” version of your site for mobile viewers, without all the bells and whistles.
3. Getting your site to work on mobile devices is too hard.
If your site wasn’t coded right the first time, getting it to work on today’s range of mobile browsers might entail too much work. In this case, you could start fresh and create a stripped-down version of your site to work on mobile devices. Of course, a better course would be to re-do your whole site using web standards and keep mobile considerations in mind.
If none of the above apply to your website, you probably can get away with one version for desktop and web devices. Just make sure you test your site in as many browsers on as many devices as possible.
P.S. Just a few stats on mobile use from Marketing Sherpa:
- 31.9% of all mobile subscribers used a Web browser on a mobile device in the three months ending in May 2010, according to comScore. That’s up from 26% in comScore’s September 2009 three-month average.
- 30% downloaded a mobile app in the three months ending in May, compared to 6.7% in the September 2009 three-month average, according to comScore.