Mobile Websites. Are you ready? 4 questions you need to ask yourself.

MobileusersDid you know that the old iphone (the 3GS) had the same specs as a PC from 2001?  Or that it’s predicted that accessing your website on a mobile device will be the prevalent medium in just 2 short years so are you ready to do this?  Recently I went round the country talking to a host of not for profits about their plans for the future online and was scared by the results.  Of the roughly 100 orgs I spoke with, barely three of them had any plans for a mobile website with a further one organisation saying they were in the process of building a site.  I’m hoping I was talking to the wrong people but if not we’ve got a real issue.
The big problem right now is that donors/alumni/prospects are not complaining but this is a temporary stay of execution those complaints are in the post.  Facebook tracks the following publically on mobile –
•  More than 350 million active users currently access Facebook through their mobile devices
•  More than 475 mobile operators globally work to deploy and promote Facebook mobile products
Those are big stats.  Lots of people doing things on mobile but what is the NFP sector doing?  We should be making plans at the very least.  However let’s not just jump on the bandwagon just because it is there.  The first thing we need to do is justify the work involved so we have to ask ourselves some questions to frame the work.

Mobilestats
Question 1 – Are people using your site via a mobile phone?  I run a website for a local park group and we have Google Analytics set up on the site.  I was surprised to notice that 20% of visitors to the page were actually accessing the page via a mobile device.  Google breaks this out very simply and very easily for you.  So I’d suggest that is your starting point.  This is a new site but is obviously in need of a mobile friendly version.  This is the most basic of websites for people who like walks in the park over tech so that is an interesting stats to start with.  Take a look at the image on the right for the breakdown of the stats.  The park site is in the process of being moved to a wordpress.com site which has an automatic mobile version.
MobilestatsQuestion 2 – What is a mobile?  We are used to thinking that mobile phones are just a step on from our old desktop phones and for a lot of devices that is the case.  Non smart phones are still used 70% of the time for making phone calls but when we look at smart phones the breakdown is quite different.  The iphone is only used for callsroughly 45% of the time!  The rest is data.  The mobile phone is no longer just a phone but more a personal media device.

Mobile devices span across a gamut of devices from iPhones to tablets to old Nokia 2110.  Do you want to optimise for everything?  Probably not so look again at your analytics and work out what people are coming to your site on.  These are good as they show the range of devices that are currently accessing your site.  Take a look at the example below for some imple details.

Question 3 – How do we create the site?
So there are many questions around this one.  Do we create a separate mobile site and have people redirect when they come to via a mobile? Or do you simplify your current content so that it is accesible?  There are pros and cons with any method.  A simple blog on the subject is here.
Most people are inclined to just employ multiple style sheets on a mobile and thus minimise the disruption when adding content.  Have a look at the way we are handling this at Blackbaud with our latest version of Netcommunity.  This method means that you only add content once and the style sheet configures it to the medium.  What works with this method is that it works wether you are talking about mobile phones or mobile browsers or even just desktop browsers.  The difficulties of this method is that you do need to make sure your content will fit with the process.
Question 4 – What next?
Once you have established a mobile website you need to monitor the success.  As with anything you need a base value to start from.  If you are being successful with your mobile site then you should encourage more mobile traffic so why not take the value you started with in question 1 and use that to base your growth from.  That was what you got online with the old site – what now.  Also keep monitoring, testing and checking so that you can see if there is a change in your findings over the months that you are live?  You need to be ready to adapt to new methods and new devices – it’s not a case of switch it on and forget about it…but you knew that didn’t you?

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