By Barbara Findlay Schenck
Does your website look the same on a mobile device as it does on a tablet, computer, or even a large screen TV? If not, digital design expert Janine Warner, of Digital Family
, warns that you are falling behind your competitors. "Nearly every business needs to adapt to reach consumers effectively on any screen," Warner points out.
So what can you do to fix the issue? Warner offers these little golden nuggets of advice:
Go with a responsive design
There are two basic strategies
for building sites that display well on almost all devices: adaptive and responsive design. With adaptive design, the site detects and identifies the user’s device and then generates a page matched to the device’s capabilities. Responsive design uses CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) technology to create a single version of a website that auto-adjusts to display properly on a device. Warner recommends responsive design in part because it’s less expensive and also because it offers a more consistent experience across platforms.
Simplify your site design
To display well on a mobile device, Warner recommends simpler page designs, large font sizes, critical information placed above the fold, and big, touchable buttons that are fat-finger-proof. Minimally, she says, "You’ll go a long way toward delivering key information on any device simply by putting your name, phone number, a brief description of what you do, and a link to a map (if you have a physical location) at the top left corner of your home page where it is easy to find."
Create a separate mobile version of your site
As an alternative to editing your website, you can create a parallel version, using mobile site design services, many of which are free or available at a low cost. "But there are tradeoffs," according to Warner. "If your mobile site has a second URL, such as one with a mobile (.m) subdomain, search engines may or may not find it."
Both Bing and Google advocate a one-URL approach for findability and search engine optimization. "Still, if you love your site or can’t afford to rebuild it, creating a mobile site that links to your main site isn’t the worst strategy," Warner says. "The worst strategy is to ignore your mobile audience altogether."
Commit to future-proof your website
As you prepare to make investments in your business, put website updates high on your priority list so you’ll be ready to reach consumers through their phones, tablets, computers, TVs or, coming soon—refrigerator doors, bathroom mirrors, and more.
Even DIY platforms, ranging from GoDaddy.com
to WordPress and others, have started offering designs that work on a variety of screen sizes. "Just be sure the theme you select is labeled responsive
," Warner says.
Alternatively, for a few thousand dollars or more, a professional designer can create a custom website.
Don’t forget quality content
"Remember," Warner says, "people access your website for three reasons: to save time, to connect with others, and to waste time. So give them quick and easy access to your site, put your contact information front and center, and offer links to maps and directions (if applicable). Also add videos or other amusements to keep people entertained while on your site."
For expert help with your website, look for a Microsoft Partner
About Barbara Findlay SchenckBarbara Findlay Schenck is a small-business strategist, the author of Small Business Marketing for Dummies and Selling Your Business for Dummies, and the co-author of Branding for Dummies and Business Plans Kit for Dummies. Her newest book, Small Business Marketing Kit for Dummies, was published in September 2012.