June 25th, 2013.
All of the briefs we’ve received this year have included a request for a ‘mobile version’ of the proposed new site.
But what does this mean? And do I hear the creak of an overloaded bandwagon?
Just as 2011-12 was the year of the Social Strategy [with no specification as to what that actually means], 2013 is fast becoming the year of the Mobile Site.
Yes, it’s true that mobile use is increasing:
Source Monetate E-Commerce Quarterly.
But how should you respond?
People could be accessing your website from any number of devices (such as phones (of all shapes and sizes), tablets (of all shapes and sizes) and even smart TVs (of all shapes and sizes). So, as a website owner, you shouldn’t be asking whether you should be considering mobile options, you should be asking which mobile options to consider – or shock-horror, opting to do nothing.
So there are 4 main options available to you. Each has its pros and cons, so let’s get the run-down:
#1 Responsive Web Design
What is it?
In a nutshell, this is designing your site so that its layout responds to the device on which it is being displayed..
- Streamlined: The site is hosted on the same domain and uses the same URL so there are no SEO issues or redirecting issues.
- Consistent with Desktop Content: The same content is just presented in a different layout.
- Low Maintenance Cost: Although initial build costs may be slightly higher, the cost of maintenance and updating should be lower (as you are only maintaining one site).
- Slower Loading Times – If you are adapting an old site to a responsive site you may find that it is not fully optimised for mobile and is slow to load. However, if you are building a new site and taking a ‘Mobile First’ approach, this shouldn’t be a problem. But 3G and 4G coverage remains sporadic and unstable – so some content may take time to download.
- General Usability – Mobile users will generally have a goal in mind when accessing a website. Whether it’s buying, reading or checking-in, they may not want to go through the same process as a desktop user. They may expect a stripped down version of the site similar to an App.
- Lack of Mobile Features – You won’t be able to get the same level of integration from a responsive site – features such as camera, photos or calendars.
- Lack of Zoom - if you are used to pinching and zooming into websites on mobile in order to be able to read the tiny text then you will not be able to on a responsive website.
Whether or not to go responsive divides opinion. We’ve been experimenting on our own site with responsive design and generally prefer the regular layout, when viewing on an Iphone. But all sites and companies are different and user needs should be a chief consideration.
#2 Dedicated Mobile Site
What is it?
Dedicated mobile sites are purpose built versions of the original website which are hosted at a new domain address (usually by adding ‘m’ before or after the original address: m.tesco.com or www.argos.co.uk/m/.
The web server normally recognises which device is being used and serves (delivers) the appropriate site to display.
- Different Content – A site purpose-built for mobile will usually have features which can load more quickly on mobile platforms, and you can dispense with some of the superfluous elements found on the desktop version.
- Speedy Development – Compared with alternatives, a mobile site can be built relatively easily. This is less labour-intensive and subsequently less costly than other mobile options.
- Mobile-Focussed – Development for the mobile platform means that navigation and usability are friendlier for mobile users.
- Slower Service – Redirection from main sites to mobile sites takes time. It may only be seconds, but it still damages the overall user experience.
- Double Maintenance – Essentially two sites need to be managed; adding new functionality would need to be done twice.
- SEO Issues – Since the content (and therefore the traffic) is split across two URLs, there’s the chance that your overall SEO will suffer. However, there are ways around this which I’ll outline later in this article.
We built a mobile shop-page for an automotive client. The desktop site’s main focus is selling car parts, so we stripped it down to the essentials to make it easy for mobile users.
#3 Mobile Apps
What are they?
Apps are programs that are saved to the device. They’re relatively small (compared with full websites) and they tend to serve one function (reading articles, shopping, checking-in). They can be a useful way to allow mobile users to access one of your site’s main utilities, or to promote your brand (with a game or similar App).
- Completely Mobile Friendly - Apps have the distinction of being native to the device, so they can access and utilize any of the phone’s capabilities (Camera, Calendar, Maps etc).
- Offline Options – While some Apps require the internet to function fully (social platforms), many others can operate offline, or cache data when an internet connection is available ready for when one isn’t.
- Quicker Loading Times – Since the App is self-contained, loading times should be quicker. Of course this depends on (and is limited by) the device’s memory and processor power.
- Push Notifications - Apps have the ability to update you with the things you need to know. Such as when you receive a new friend request on Facebook, or when you’re near a public toilet.
- No Cross-Functionality – Apps are made for specific platforms. iOS Apps will work on iphone or ipad, but will not be usable by Windows devices – or any non-Apple devices for that matter. This means Apps must be developed for each platform, which is expensive.
- Updates – Apps need to be constantly updated and tweaked. This is in terms of both user-feedback and changes to the device. This can be time-consuming and costly.
- Downloading – Apps have to be downloaded for use. Success in the App world may require considerable marketing and promotion.
We’ve applied appropriate aptitude to developing an App for a company that focusses on standardised testing. The App allows mobile users to practice the tests wherever they are.
The 4th Option
So those are your three options regarding adapting to mobile. There is of course a fourth option and that is that of doing nothing. Most website operate perfectly satisfactorily on mobile and indeed users who know your site will welcome the fact they do not need to relearn where everything is on the page and the new navigation options. This is a strong argument for keeping the status-quo which is not receiving enough credence now that the dash for “mobile first” has been triggered in marketing departments.
So in conclusion beware of the bandwagon, think about the implications before you jump. If someone says “Mobile first” to you ask them what they actually mean and what they want to achieve.
If you would like any more information, please get in touch.
And as a special thank you for reading this far, I’ll now present a guide on how to optimise mobile sites for SEO in the form of a Shakespearean sonnet:
You’ve built two sites; one desktop, one mobile,
But now you’re concerned that your traffic’s split,
And now you’ve come to visit Datadial,
To fix your SEO a little bit.
There are two points that must be mentioned here,
Two tags to put in your HTML,
(On each version of the page – let’s be clear)
They are two tags, and they both start with ‘Rel’.
Rel=”alternate” on the desktop
Make sure it points to the mobile and all…
And pointing back, just so it doesn’t flop
On mobile: Rel=”canonical”
But other things cannot be avoided.
Like linking to mobile, just like I did:
So basically add some links in the HTML of each page that look like this:
Desktop: <link rel=”alternate” href=”http://m.example.com/page-example”>
Mobile: <link rel=”canonical” href=http://example.com/page-example>
Online trading is a fast paced world. Whether it be in stock and shares, grants for start-ups or otherwise, there aren’t many examples to date that show the benefits of waiting around.
Let’s look at some examples of once leading technologies, that have recently or notably had to resort to publicising selling shares, or changing hands to stay (or become) relevant; which of these companies/ventures/subsidiaries do you still associate with “cool“?:
Known originally for: Pioneering the discovery of new music online…
Now thought of as: A dated money leaking endeavour that has passed hands more than a hot potato.
Known originally for: The only key to dial up internet…
Now thought of as: American acronym that we see online from time to time, mostly trying to be spammed-in as the default homepage for your browser when downloading freeware.
Known originally for: Groundbreaking search engine and most famous Google competitor…
Now thought of as: Fairly annoyingly designed interface that we’re surprised is still around.
Known originally for: Quirky news discovery site…
Now thought of as: Recently sold to a company for $500, 000 (much less that it was once worth ($175, 000, 000)
Known originally for: The new zeitgeist and awesome brainchild of cool-techie Mark Zuckerburg…
Now thought of as: Slightly spammy/stalky connect-service offering the chance to re-establish relasionships with distant relatives & old “friends”
Known originally for: Newbie picture service that made Twitter pics look really cool…
Now thought of as: Lovely money-maker for start-up entrapeneur Kevin Systrom (he knew when to sell)
Known originally for: Having a great customizable email service that tied closely to MSN messeger and then windows live…
Now thought of as: Uber-spammy email service that looks outdated & unsure of its design.
Known originally for: Creating the Blackberry; a respectable device for business-people…
Now thought of as: Annoying pingy device taken over by tweens and teeny-boppers who got excited about its messaging service, which is essentially not far from a text message.
Known originally for: Competing with the big boys and girls (basically Google) and doing that respectably…
Now thought of as: A failed Microsoft endeavour, that was close – but no cigar…
Known originally for: Clever algorithms that tailored music choices to the listener based on entering a few personalised details…
Now thought of as: Recently hacked music service that was long out-thought by competitors (Pandora, Spotify and iTunes’ “Ping“)
Known originally for: Pioneering photo technology as we knew it and introducing a sense of class to both the disposable and polaroid camera…
Now thought of as: A once amazing company that failed to follow technology into the world of digital and subsequently faced insolvency.
Don’t get left behind…
I am yet to find many examples of ways in which companies have implemented their Cookie alerts on their website.
This is probably not surprising as it’s yet to come in but the day is drawing near.
Here are some examples. I will add more as I find them. Please feel free to suggest your own.
Virgin.com – Wow you’ve got to be keen to bother reading all that. And still the buttons are confusing.
Quite sneaky here. BT have popped the box at the bottom right hand side of the page. Be quick though as it disappears after 20 seconds. Also you need to have a lot of time on your hands to decide which cookies to accept and which not to.
These guys have had their policy in place for over a year which is quite surprising. It reminds me of the moment in Blackadder II where on a voyage of discovery with Captain Rum the water runs out aboard ship and they have to turn to drinking their own urine only to find out that Baldrick has been drinking his own for a year already – he prefers the taste!
Nice simple solution though.
Simple solution, which disappears after about 10 seconds. Presumably they think that not actively agreeing is presumed acceptance? Is this legal?
April 21st, 2011.
Having a good ‘About Us’ page allows you to show off who you are, what you do and it allows to make people more comfortable doing a business with your company. Unfortunately, this page is being sometimes overlooked, as the perception is that it’s not that important.
However, according to a Stanford Web Credibility Research, they derived 10 guidelines/factors which effects websites credibility, 3 of them relating to your ‘about us’ page (based on a 3 year, 5500 person study):
- Show that there is a real organization behind your site
- Highlight the expertise in your organization
- Show that honest and trustworthy people stand behind your site
Naturally, testing a different version of your ‘About us’ page should be on your to-do test list. Unfortunately, in most cases ‘About us’ pages get at most several hundred visitors per month, which is not enough to come with statistically valid results within your 6 weeks test period. In this case, here is the list of 3 must have things an ‘About us’ page for small and medium businesses should definitely have if you want to get more sales:
3 Must Haves
- Pictures of your office and your team
- A passionate story behind your company showing your values
- Peoples bio (credentials, certificates, training)
Here is the list of some ‘About us’ pages for your inspiration.
www.technologywithpassion.com (nice animation)
www.tribal.nl (nice animation)
Business (ecommerce + service + corporate) examples:
February 17th, 2011.
We’re delighted to announce the launch of a new site for Taylor Herring PR consultancy.
We rebranded the company with a new logo and new identity. We redesigned the website and developed it using Datadial’s content management system
If you have never had the pleasure of watching how a website is put together then now’s your chance. Watch the video below.
The format of this year’s conference is tons better than last year. The atmosphere of the Brewery is great, and the food (which is also outstanding) at the break times gives people a chance to talk to each other and network. It has been much easier this year to meet people and talk to other designers.
It’s really hard to choose a favourite speaker because they’re all so great! I think jQuery for Designers is probably going to have the most impact on my day to day work because it has encouraged me to take a new step into jQuery.
The design clinic time was great, and it was a wonderful opportunity to talk to designers you really respect. I got some great feedback from Mike Kus, who has to be one of my all time favourite web designers because of his original work.
Definitely had to be font.com’s sponsor slot. Not only were they the ugliest slides of the day, the introduction was dated (we know about using @font-face already) and then followed by a whole sales pitch on why we should all buy their service. It was very amusing to see the tweets coming in during the talk!
Don’t get me wrong, their service is great and no doubt I’ll be using it soon, but the talk and presentation definitely gets labelled the worst, after everything else was so amazing.
More to come tomorrow, but in summary…
(I’ll add links to slideshows and downloads as I get them)
Play. Destroy. Create. from Brendan Dawes
I loved his reference to maths and nature, and seeing how he had turned that into something new. It’s about observing things like the trend of technical stuff to non techy people. Some of the things he was showing was simply play to explore and provoke reactions. He encouraged us to play, have passion and love what we do!
How to Get Started with CSS3 from Dan Cederholm
After doing a lot of CSS3 work already, I wasn’t expecting to get much from this session, but was very pleasantly surprised. I now have a list of things I want to try, tools to use, and new ideas generated from this session. Definitely ideal for people new to CSS3, but still lots of great stuff in there for those of us who have already been using it.
Accessibility in Web Design Robin Christopherson
I’ve seen Robin speak a few times, and each time he has something new and very informative. This time he encouraged mobile versions of websites, as the format of them is also much more accessible. He also encouraged the use of Text Captcha because it’s accessible, free and offers a comprehensive API. You Tube are now also providing automatic captioning on their videos!
Making things usable is not enough – we should also make them enjoyable. Don’t compromise on the base needs for t»he user, but look for ways you can add that extra layer of emotive enjoyment – like the Mailchimp quotes!
UX Masterclass with Web Standardistas Web Standardistas
This flowed on really well from the Emotional Interface Design and looked at the secret for making something that is usable really great. The secret is YOU!
Smart Tips for Wireframing Brad Haynes
I’m about half way through The Elements of Typographic Style and thoroughly enjoying it. I really wish there was a way you could read a book and ride a bicycle so I could get more reading time in while commuting, but I’ll just have to take my time reading it instead!
Some thoughts so far…
“With type as with philosophy, music and food, it is better to have a little of the best than to be swamped with the derivative, the careless, the routine.” (Page 117)
I think this is true of all design. In a time where you can get free website templates anywhere or make a website yourself so easily, the designs that have a lot of thought, care and expertise behind them really stand out from the crowd.
Shaping the page
Although the book focuses on print, the principles found in the chapter Shaping the Page can be applied to web design also. It is a great reminder to me of design school, especially the theories of the Golden Section and Fibonacci series. Using ratios based around π are useful for arriving at a design that is easy on the eye and feels comfortable to use.
What you read opens your eyes to things around you; I have been noticing nicely designed type everywhere! Recently we spent a weekend in Zürich – I love it how clean, thoughtful design surrounds you in that beautiful country.
Sometimes photos just don’t cut it – especially stock photos that are also being used on many other sites. Illustrations using traditional (using pen, ink, watercolour, pencil) and vector (a type of computer graphics) methods are starting to fill some of those holes on websites around the world. One major benefit of illustration is that it can look exactly how you want it to look. The illustration can be of many different styles, according to what look you’re after, and there are many examples around the internet.
One of the sites that we’ve designed recently, Conference Genie, uses a cartoon style vector illustration to capture their three service in a unique way. I thought I would share with you the process that I went through to create these graphics.
Each character starts off with pencil sketches, which helps me and the client to get the same feel for the illustration. This part of the process should be a time of a lot of discussion and collaboration with the client.
The sketch is then scanned into the computer and opened in Illustrator. Here I outline the sketch and start building up some shapes.
The shapes are then filled with colours, and tweaked according to what is needed.
Finishing is then applied to the illustration in Photoshop and it is incorporated into the website design for a unique look and feel.
October 21st, 2008.
Please excuse the following rant but I’m increasingly frustrated, bored, let down, despairing, incredulous that there are still “graphic designers” out there who have no concept of how to design for the web, but who insist on designing websites for their clients
It’s fine if they stick to Quark and what they are good at, and all credit to them, butÂ for some reason they think they have carteÂ blanche to roam into areas which are not their concern.
For example, let’s say that you wanted to design a new boat.Â Who would you go to first?Â Would you go to a designer of aeroplanes?Â No, you would seek out people who have experience in boat design, because what you want is a boat,Â and you need someone whoÂ understands nautical things like waves, water, ballast,Â the pros and cons of different hull shapes,Â propellars, and the like.Â Would you really want to go to sea in a craft designed by a designer ofÂ aeroplanes? I think not.
Do you work for a web design agency?Â Does this happen to you that clients get their so called “brand” guardian to do the web designÂ or the guy who did their brochureÂ and aks you to implement it as a web site.
And is it just us or do you receive a complete load of tosh thatÂ disobeys practically every law of web accessibility, search engine friendliness, usability, extensibility and future proofing, font usage and image sizing hell?
What planet to these people live on?Â Why don’t they put up their hands to their clients and say we can give guidance on the design but we are graphic designers for print and you need a professional web designer who can take into account the requirements of the web.Â Because they work in the web every day they will know what is the right way and what is the wrong way to do things.Â Do web designers try to do design brochures?
I won’t get started on programmers who think that they are web designers as I’m far too angry.Â Just for the record, in case you are a print designer and you are still wondering where you went wrong here are few tips:
- Decide the width of your design and what happens to the site when viewed on different size monitors
- Think about usability and consider tried and tested conventions.Â No need to think of your own “unique” style of navigation.Â There’s a reason for some of the conventions.
- Think about search engine friendliness.Â Not enough space here to explain but be aware that 60-80% of traffic and sales on most e-comms might come from search engines.
- A little flash can be nice, it can look good. A whole site built solely is flash is pointless – just drop it.Â Nobody is interested in seeing your logo sliding in and out.
- Think what happens in the future.Â What happens if more menu items, or product lines are added.
- Think about who will administer the site and how many image sizes you really need.Â It’s a pain creating 4 different size images for each new product, (although yes there are ways round this programmatically).
- Splash pages – why? What are they there for? Why do you feel the need to make people click an extra time to get to where they are going?
- Consider the online audience – they do not know your company probably so help them help you by giving as much information about yourself and don’t try to be so cool that they have to be Sherlock Holmes to find out what you do.
Thanks for reading, I feel better now
Have you ever seen one of those clever online magazines where you can “turn” or “flick” the pages with your mouse?
If you ever fancied getting your web content displayed in one of these flash viewers (you don’t even have to have a magazine, a product catalogue will do for example), ZMAGS provide an affordable way of creating these “online magazines” via the upload of various PDF files that represent the pages of the e-mag.
The service costs Â£19 for 1 magazine, Â£79 for 10 and Â£149 for 25.Â More info here.
For Pocket London, we built a system around the Zmag IFrames that enables the client to “brand” each e-mag separately to their specifications.Â The client can change the header, footer or an intro page around the IFrame through a bespoke content management system, therefore providing limitless possibilites of re-branding their online magazine for any number of clients.
Here are a few examples of the finished product: