Sure, you have a gorgeous web site. You spent a fortune and endless hours on it. But how does that beautiful site look on an iPhone?
Or a Blackberry? Or an Android?
With some 60 percent of cell phone users now using handsets to access the Internet, it’s increasingly important to make sure your site is functional on handsets as well as on big desktop screens. iPads and other tablets such as the new Android devices aren’t such a big problem, because their screens are big enough to render most sites pretty well. (On the other hand, if your site uses Flash, it’s worth keeping in mind that iPad doesn’t support that technology.)
Fortunately, making your site mobile-friendly may be easier than you think, especially if it’s built using one of major open-source content management systems such as Joomla! or Drupal. These CMS systems not only provide enormous power and flexibility, but they also allow you to install readily-available plug-ins or various functions. For example, I build my corporate web sites in Joomla! and can easily add calendars, shopping carts, RSS feeds, customer service “back ends” and other functionality. On my Joomla! sites, I used a plug-in that allowed me to use a simplified template that looks better on handsets.
If your site uses a proprietary CMS, you’re pretty much on your own. You’ll probably have to go back to the web developer and ask him or her to install software to recognize handsets and use a simplified template that is more accessible on small screens.
Whatever system you’re adapting for handsets, you will hopefully have several choices. Some scripts simply strip out the photos and graphics and render the text on the handset. These are the easiest to install and configure, and you may be able to get by with one. But if the information identifying your site is embedded in pictures, keep in mind that you’ll need to make sure visitors have a way of identifying where they are.
A more sophisticated approach is to use a script that identifies the handset and uses a different template for it, giving you more control over what the visitor sees. For example, I designed a “mobile” template for each site, with no graphics more than 500 pixels wide. (Some scripts will also downsize other photos to keep things proportional.)
Also be sure to make sure you don’t compromise too much on functionality. For example, if you have a shopping cart on your site, you still want it to work for mobile visitors. And if you’re selling products, you probably don’t want the photos eliminated completely.