Like most technology, the internet is changing; and one of the biggest changes in recent years has been the use of smartphones. It sort of started when Apple introduced its iPhone back in 2007 and since then it’s grown and grown as more manufacturers have jumped on the bandwagon.

So the mobile internet is big news. I’ve noticed big companies like PizzaExpress are now using things like mobile-specific QR codes on their tables in order to give customers extra information at the scan of a barcode; more and more are offering free wi-fi to their customers.

Big news

In September 2009, only 0.02% of UK internet traffic originated from mobile devices and in January of this year that figure had grown to 8.09%! (For more statistics, have a look at this page.) If that’s anything to go by, it’s going to continue rising.

How will that affect my business?

The question to ask yourself is whether it’s appropriate that you get on board and have your site optimised for mobile internet browsers. Most will read your site just as it has been made, only very small, forcing the reader to zoom in on the page and drag it around to view the content. It is sometimes a good idea to alter the entire site so that it displays at just the right width for a smartphone and the text is immediately readable, without the need to zoom.

Inclusivity

So you need to have a think about your visitors. Whether they’re likely to visit your website on a smartphone or from their desktop/laptop computer at home. That figure of 8.09% mobile internet users from January represents about 5 million people.

It’s similar to ensuring your website is viewable to the 2.6% of the UK population that view the internet through Internet Explorer 6 - a decade-old browser - they have to have a decent experience of your site. It won’t be as nice as it looks on most people’s browsers as some of the most basic technology isn’t there, but that’s still 1.6 million people you have to present your brand and information to.

Thankfully, getting things to look ok in the aforementioned browser is (usually) a relatively simple task, once you know how it works and how to bend it to your will. I include this in every website I make. Mobile optimisation, on the other hand, is a much more involved process. You’re effectively having your site styled again from scratch and the images you use have to be resized to fit. Navigation can’t be as it is on your main site- it’s generally better to use a drop-down list, for example.

Budget

It’s a big job in itself, so you have to think carefully about whether your budget will stretch that far, and, if it will, whether it’s a wise investment, based on your calculations as to how many potential customers you’ll be gaining, or whether your money would be better spent on a blog for your site, or an advert in the local paper. Like most ‘upgrades’ to your site, it’s always something you can come back to at a later date.

A restaurant may be a good example: you need to consider people who find themselves in your area and are looking for somewhere to eat. An easy way to do this is to use their phone to search for the restaurants in the local area. If they find your restaurant and are presented with a site that is perfectly optimised for their mobile device - easy to read, well laid out, etc. - this will reflect well on your business. They’ll be able to find what they’re looking for more easily and could be more likely to call you to book a table!

It’s all about the user’s experience

So it’s all about the user’s experience of your site. If it’s easy for them, they’ll feel that your business will provide them with a similarly comfortable and professional journey and are more likely to buy your product or use your service. It’s just a case of working out whether it’s right for your business.