No matter what sector you work in there's no denying that things have gone mobile-shaped. An increasing number of organisations are jumping on the mobile bandwagon, but does this mean that you should too?

Certainly mobile is not something anyone can afford to ignore anymore. Tecmark (2011) reports that mobile now constitutes for 12.59% of web traffic in the UK, a massive jump up from 0.02% in September 2009, and a figure that looks set to continue to grow at a steady rate to more than 15% by January 2012.

Firstly let's establish the options for going mobile and how they differ. Mobile websites can be dedicated mobile-compatible versions of sites that enhance the accessibility of your online offering to a greater range of devices. Mobile apps are platform-specific, meaning that they are produced to function on particular platforms (Apple, Android, Blackberry, etc), and must be downloaded to a user's smartphone.

There are, as always, advantages and disadvantages to both. Most notably, due to the platform dependency of apps, apps can limit the reach of your communications and over-segment your audience. While Apple still controls the majority of the mobile market, Android is quickly catching up with significant growth in the past two years or so. Thus, with predictions for the mobile market to become more of an even playing field, isolating segments of their audience according to their mobile platform is something that smaller-budget organisations can certainly not afford to do.

However, that is not to say that apps don't work, in fact Nielsen (2011) suggests that apps have a greater success rate than mobile specific websites (in terms of functionality), with a 76% success rate for app usage compared with 64% for mobile sites.

Nowadays, the Apple and Android app stores both offer over 100,000 apps each, a figure that is growing every day. But with apps there is the additional challenge of not only promoting the app's existence in a heavily saturated market but convincing your audience that it is worth downloading. The barrier of having to install an app onto their mobile device, from which point personal data may be attained, can act as a massive deterrent to your target audience.

If your organisation decides to develop a new mobile app it is important to note that the app will link back to your website, thus the need for a mobile-friendly (if not mobile specific) website arises once again.

Smartphone apps may be the 'in thing' right now, but don't forget that they are essentially a very targeted marketing campaign – if you don't have solid objectives to build upon, and a smart idea to begin with, it just won't be successful. What's more, if you fail to create an efficient app it could do more damage to your brand image than good.

So let's take a step back - use your website as the basis upon which to make informed decisions surrounding the future of mobile and your online presence. Ask yourself:

  • How many visitors access our site via a mobile device?
  • How accessible is our online content on mobile devices?
  • How can we improve the experience of accessing our site via mobile?

A simple look at your website's analytics and a browse through your site via a mobile device will allow you to answer the above and will form the basis of your decision to invest further in mobile or not. It is worth noting that programs such as Google Analytics allow you to pinpoint the specific source of site traffic, so that you can best evaluate the platforms to which you need to cater to, whether that be platform specific for app development or more general, i.e. just mobile vs desktop traffic.

Naturally, budget is an overarching theme of 2012 and therefore companies must factor in whether investing in mobile will benefit their organisation in the long-term. From our experience, After Digital would expect a minimum of 10% of all website traffic to come from mobile users. In line with the aforementioned predictions for 15% of all UK website traffic to come from mobile and touch devices by January 2012, we can only expect this figure to increase. This highlights a clear opportunity to create a better user experience for this growing market segment.

First and foremost, if your visitors are indeed coming from mobile devices then your site should be mobile friendly. People's expectations are always increasing and if you fail to satisfy them they will not return to your site in a hurry, and ultimately you will fail to achieve your online objectives. A study found that the success rate for carrying out activities on the Internet from your mobile went down considerably when there was no mobile-specific version of the site. Whilst, it was reported that 35% of consumers said they would leave a mobile website if it was difficult to use. This further highlights the necessity to develop a dedicated mobile platform to meet growing user experience expectations.

At the heart of good mobile website development is stripping back your website's core content and message so that it can be presented quickly and efficiently. With mobile sites you have even less time to make an impact, and so your site needs to get its point across in only a few seconds. Additionally, features, buttons and other calls to action need to be big and bold to facilitate navigation of the mobile site on touch devices and ensure ease of use.

Our recommendations:

  • Analyse your website traffic to establish how your audience is currently viewing your website.
  • Analyse your organisation's overall objectives in line with your online strategy.
  • When you redevelop your website think about mobile accessibility from the offset, as this will not only enhance accessibility and a more seamless integration, but will also reduce the overall costs of development.
  • A well thought out new website project will allow all content to be managed centrally so that you can simultaneously update both full and mobile site pages.
  • Clarify the core content and features of your site and make sure this is clearly presented in a simple structure for a mobile platform.
  • Have clear calls to action and links between the full and mobile versions of your site.

After Digital has experience working with clients to develop mobile specific platforms to enhance business performance. For example, take a look at our work on Somerston Hotels' new mobile website, which now constitutes for 10% of overall web traffic.

If you are interested in mobile web development, app development or enhancing your web presence in any way for mobile and touch devices, please contact us.