In the early days of the internet bubble it wasn't so hard to find businesses that were entirely indifferent to the web. Some postponed building a web site for years as the industry really swung into high gear, others slapped up a one pager with a gray background and logo. Probably the best example of this blatant procrastination was Taco Bell. They failed to build a site or purchase a URL pretty late in the scheme of things. Eventually curious customers that stopped by were greeted by a mock web site set up by some stoner TB employees, who posted photos of each other making rather hilarious use of the local drive thru. From the company's point of view, at least the slackers were using the Taco Bell drive thru and not promoting a competitor, and oh, it could have been much, much worse.
This comedic use of the site went on for more than a moon's turn, and management had no inkling. These sorts of mistakes will not happen again on this epic a scale for large companies, even poorly run ones, as enough time has passed to make it clear how lucrative and vital this medium is, and how much embarrassment can be doled out if one doesn't man the ship. Let me refine this statement though: missteps of this magnitude will by and large be avoided henceforth, but plenty of branding and functionality blunders continue to this day and will anytime a major technology shift takes hold. Presently the most common flub is to completely ignore the mobile device experience they are offering to a rapidly growing audience, and it might be a good idea to state the case for taking charge of this matter now, and then waht to do about it.
Flavor of the Day: Foot Dragging
In 2011 there were over 1.1 billion mobile phone users globally, or 17 percent of the entire world population. Roughly a quarter of these people use this device exclusively to view the web, so there is a pressing need to view your site through this set of lenses. Yet there are plenty of companies that have failed to consider what their site looks like through a mobile device despite having put good time and effort into creating a solid web experience for more web devices with large screen formats. 8% of all North Americans web page views today are through a mobile device, almost a 40% increase in one year. To put it in perspective, these numbers have probably eclipsed total views for all Apple laptops and desktops, while PC growth has slowed to a crawl (3.8% last year). This should demonstrate the need to take the mobile device experience seriously, at least anyone who isn't clueless enough to let their domain name be purchased by disgruntled employees and turned into pure comedy.
What to do
What exactly is plan of action, you ask? A few simple steps can get you oriented, and give you a sense of what you need to do in order to create a better user experience for your mobile customers. First try out one of the following websites listed below to see what responsive website design, the best answer to mobile browser challenges, is all about. If you are on a PC, try dragging the browser window inward once you have an example on screen, narrowing the width, and watch how the layout changes to make better use of the available screen real estate, because these sites adjust to best accommodate the device being used, or at least that is the goal. The code that holds the web page and gives it structure has been written to respond to smaller browser/device sizes:
Now try viewing your own website using an iPhone or Android. If your site already employs responsive design like the ones listed above, you are all set. If not, find yourself a consultant who knows his way responsive design to get advice on how best to serve your site to a mobile audience, because there's no one size fits all business solution. Try visiting Target.com on a mobile device to see what I mean; they've chosen a completely differently path to presenting their website on such a small screen, as it is not the exact same content you'll find on the home page when displayed on your PC. The distance you've got to cover in not what I would call daunting in order to meet the needs of your mobile customers if you've failed to address it up till now, and you've got a number of tried and true solutions to choose from when you finally get your ducks in a row. No time like the present.