The mobile-ready platform. Optimizing for the small screen.

mobile devices optimization web design Nov 28, 2023

On any given day, where do you consume the most digital content?  You have several viable options, and all of us have different consumption habits.  Are you primarily using your TV, desktop computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone?  I realize that we all may have different answers to this question, but regardless of what our personal answers may be, a large percentage of the content that’s consumed online is being accessed via smartphones.

When I was a kid, I was one of those people who always had a radio or a Walkman with me.  As I got older, in addition to music, I always had a book or two with me as well.  If you told me back then that a day was coming when I would carry something in my pocket that would give me immediate access to every song, movie, TV show, talk show, or book, and that it would have a battery that lasted me the entire day, I would have been shocked and maybe in disbelief.  And if you told me it was also a phone, calculator, camera, audio recorder, wallet, guitar tuner, and more, I would have thought you were just making something up to be funny.

But over the past 15 years, we have watched the smartphone become an indispensable device.  In fact, many of you are either watching me or listening to me right now from your smartphone.  If you left your house and got 10 minutes down the road only to realize you left your smartphone at home, it’s very likely you would turn your car around, go home, and get it.  That’s how important these devices are in the midst of our present-day lifestyle.

I doubt you’d argue with me on much of what I’ve said so far, but if we’re in agreement that this is all true, why do we pay such minuscule attention to the smartphone when we’re creating our online platforms and digital content?  Why is the small screen such an afterthought when it’s become the primary way most people receive and send information?

For example, if you have a website, have you taken the time to test how it shows up on a smartphone?  Is it easy to navigate or does it look like a jumbled mess?  Are the navigation buttons and fonts easy to read or discover?  Is the most obvious information placed front and center, or does it get buried in hidden places?

Years ago when I first started creating websites, I didn’t care how they showed up on a mobile device because very few people had them and content streaming was slow and clunky.  Out of curiosity, I would sometimes check to see if my sites looked the same or different on the small screen.  Typically, they would look a little different and didn’t work very well, but at the time, I didn’t really care because that wasn’t where people were seeking my content anyway.

That’s totally different today.  In fact, when I decide to use site-building software or hosting services, I always check to see how they perform on mobile.  Some work well.  Others don’t.  In time, I have moved my content to places where it functions great on a mobile device.

If you see value in doing the same, let me give you a few suggestions.

1.  Test out the mobile capabilities of various platforms before you commit to building on one.  Most companies are getting better about this, but not all.  In 2017 I started using Squarespace for many of my websites partly because of its ability to make my site look good on mobile devices.  In 2021 when I needed a more robust solution to run my online business, I started building my sites with Kajabi which is also very friendly when accessed via smartphone.

2.  Accept the fact that you’re going to need to streamline some of your content to better fit on a mobile device.  Squarespace does some of this automatically by adjusting how much content they’ll allow to show up on a small screen.  Kajabi, on the other hand, lets you decide if there are certain design elements that you just don’t want displayed on a mobile device.  I use that feature all the time to make sure I don’t clutter up the screen.

3.  Don’t let it bother you if your site looks more simple on mobile than it does on a desktop computer.  Simple is almost always better anyway.  Most people who access your site aren’t looking for everything you’ve ever created to show up on your homepage at the same time.  They just want your site to be easy to navigate when they’re looking for something specific.

4.  Use bigger text, larger buttons, and put less content on a page.  People are often in motion when they’re using their smartphones.  They want to be able to glance at their phone and make changes, read headlines, or play audio and video content.  Make your buttons thumb-friendly, which leads me to my next point…

5.  Make the process of watching, listening, and reading extremely user-friendly.  Format your content with the smartphone in mind.  You don’t have to create content exclusively for mobile devices, but make sure your content can be read or listened to from any size device without too much complexity.  Again, I think most content is consumed via a small screen, so if you have to lean in any particular direction, that’s the direction I would recommend.

6.  Make it easy for people to make payments via their smartphone when they want to buy or subscribe to something you have available for sale.  Our phones now double as our wallets.  Most places allow me to use Apple Pay or other phone-friendly payment solutions.  Have you ever considered the fact that some of the customers you’re trying to reach or clients you’re trying to serve would spend more on your platform if it was easier for them to do so from their phones?

Test me out with all of this and see what I mean.  I am in the process of trying to identify any areas where my site could be more mobile-friendly, but I certainly appreciate your feedback in the process.  Visit from your smartphone, attempt to navigate the site, and read, watch, or listen to the content I’m sharing there.  Let me know if you think it’s easy to consume and user-friendly to navigate.  If you offer me a suggestion for improvement and I make changes based on your suggestion, I will gladly send you a free copy of one of my books.

Don’t ignore your mobile presence.  That very well may be where you discover your biggest and most engaged audience.

© John Stange, 2023

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