By Steve Vargo, OD, MBA
Use of smartphones and e-tablets to find goods and services is exploding. Is your web site mobile-friendly? Here’s an action plan to optimize your mobile look and functionality.
Take a look around you the next time you walk your city’s streets and think about your own communication habits. I bet you’ll conclude that you and all you know are increasingly reliant on mobile technology. With web pages increasingly viewed on handheld devices like smartphones, it is time to ask how your web site looks and functions on these devices. Right now, as you think of it, get out your smartphone and go to your practice web site. How does it look? Pretend you’re a patient and try navigating the site through the smartphone screen and interface. Can you use your site easily via the smartphone? Many of you–if not most of you–will not be able to view and use your web site on your smartphone half as easily as you can on a desktop or laptop computer.
The traditional internet was meant to be viewed on a large screen, while sitting and having plenty of time to consume. Due to the aggressive growth and consumer adoption of mobile-enabled devices, particularly smartphones, consumers are increasingly accessing the internet on-the-go. Even a well-designed web site can lead to a horrible user experience if the site hasn’t been set up with mobile handsets in mind.
Your Patients are More Mobile than You Think
If you’re not convinced of the need to adapt your web site to the viewing and using needs of mobile devices, consider the following statistics:
• 25 percent of Americans use only mobile devices to access the internet (as opposed to desktops).
• 45 percent of mobile phone users now have a smartphone (this was 18 percent two years ago).
• Nine out of 10 mobile searches lead to action, over half leading to purchase.
• Mobile coupons receive 10 times higher redemption rates than print coupons.
• Seventy percent of mobile searches lead to action within one hour. It takes one month for the same percentage of desktop users to take action.
• Nearly 60 percent of web users expect a site to load on their mobile phone in three seconds or less, and 74 percent will leave the site if a single web page does not load in five seconds or less.
• 43 percent of local searchers on mobile devices physically showed up at the location, and 22 percent made a purchase.
Why Make Your Web Site Mobile-Friendly?
The benefits of a mobile-friendly web site are manifold. Here are just some that come to mind:
• Stripped down content that’s easy to consume.
• Small-size graphics that don’t take a long time to download.
• Easily include calls to action (click to call, instant directions, request an appointment, etc.).
• Ability to easily integrate social media platforms such as Facebook and YouTube.
• Higher rankings in search engines – mobile-ready web sites are getting priority in mobile search.
• Higher speed – normal web sites tend to be very slow and cluttered. Mobile sites with less graphics can open faster.
And those benefits don’t even take into consideration the marketing or branding message that a mobile-friendly site sends–that your practice is with it–fully modern, up-to-date and ready for the patients of today.
Do You Need a New Site or Can You Adapt Your Existing Site?
Typically, a mobile version of a company web site (designed and developed to run on mobile platforms) will have a slightly different look and navigation and contain a limited subset of the content found on the regular company web site. The regular company web site will have code built into it to detect if a person is visiting the site from a mobile device and automatically re-direct them to the mobile version. On the mobile version, they’ll be offered a link to visit the full site. If the regular company web site was developed correctly from the start (for example using HTML 5), then the full site should also display fairly well on most mobile devices. Applications, or “apps,” as they’re known, for download wouldtypically be done to augment the regular practice web site or in place of a mobile web site.
Developing for the “mobile platform” includes defining exactly what mobile platforms you wish to target during the design and development stage of your project. If you truly want to develop a “universal” mobile site or app, you need to target and test on all platforms–Android, BlackBerry, iPhone and iPad, Windows Mobile and Symbian (used with Samsung, Sony Ericsson and Nokia). One very important component then of mobile development is testing your mobile site on all of these different platforms.
Making Your Site Mobile-Friendly is Easier than You Think
Mobile web sites do not necessarily replace your desktop version; they simply provide an alternative and more user-friendly experience for your mobile visitors. There are many free (or low-cost) “do-it-yourself” services on the web. Armed with some basic computer skills, you may be able to have a mobile web site up and running in less than an hour. If you decide to hire a professional firm, the timeframe may take days, weeks or months depending on the scope of the project. According to web consultant Al Konieczka of Alkon Consulting Group, the main differences are the design limitations. Do-it-yourself sites limit you to their features, which may require you to compromise what you truly want on your mobile web site. Professional firms allow you to design branded web sites to match your exact needs.
Get Edge Over Competitors
Similar to e-mail in the 90s, early adaptors to mobile technology stand to capitalize on opportunities and create a competitive advantage. Only around 20 percent of businesses have a mobile-friendly web site. When people use mobile search on their smartphone or tablet to find a local optometrist, will you show up? Mobile is the future.