5 Ways to Create a Mobile-Friendly Website Without Responsive Web Design

mobile friendly websiteThis guest post is by Chiko Noguchi

Thanks to the rapid proliferation of smartphones and tablets, responsive web design has become one of, if not the hottest trend in the web design arena. The rationale behind this concept is quite simple — create a single website that delivers an optimal user experience across whatever device the visitor should be using at the time. It certainly makes a lot of sense in today’s mobile-driven world, but what do you do when taking the responsive approach is not an option?

1. Focus on the User Experience

Creating a mobile-friendly site calls for designers to play special attention to the user experience, which starts with understanding what they want. What is the average visitor looking for when they arrive at your web destination? Information? Apps to download? Video content? The answers here are vital because they give you the fuel needed to drive the ideal experience home to the user.

So for example, if most people are coming to your site looking to speak to you directly, you can set up a page that lets visitors know how they can contact you via email, and incorporate a mobile-friendly feature such as click-to-call for those who prefer to obtain that information via phone. That way, you cater to both the desktop and smartphone crowd.

2.  Differentiate Between Smartphones and Tablets

It is not uncommon for people and even tech experts to lump smartphones and tablets in the same boat of mobile devices. That doesn’t mean you should do the same, especially when it comes to designing your website. While ease of portability technically makes both mobile, these devices are two entirely different breeds of gadgets. For one, although tablet screens are smaller in comparison to laptops, they are usually considerably larger than smartphone displays. The size aspect alone presents some rather unique challenges.

According to Google, your best bet is to deliver tablet users the desktop version of your site. The search giant makes this recommendation because the display size on a tablet is closer to a desktop view, than it is a smartphone experience. Another option you have is to create a tablet-only version of your site, an ideal that has been adopted by brands in the online magazine and newspaper markets.

3. Avoid Flash

Adobe’s Flash technology brings websites to life with engaging videos, fluent animations, and other features that command the visitor’s attention. As far as creating an interactive user experience goes, it’s one of the best tools for the job, but unfortunately, not in the mobile arena. One of the easiest ways to deliver an experience across mobile devices that is both consistent and rich in media is to simply stay away from Flash. If you require this kind of functionality, look into alternatives like HTML5.

4. Redirect Mobile Traffic

Another clever trick you can use is automatically redirecting desktop visitors to the mobile version of your site. There are several ways to leverage redirection, including using a combination of .htaccess and MIME types, JavaScript, and server-side programming languages such as PHP. Each method has its own set of pros and cons, but all are capable of both detecting mobile devices and redirecting the visitor to a destination that provides a better experience.

One of the biggest challenges associated with using redirects is not ticking Google off. Web spammers use this method to aid in cloaking, which in this case, typically aims to manipulate ad revenues by tricking users to visit a site other than the one they intended. Web designers should adhere to Google ‘s guidelines on mobile redirects and make sure they are sending users to specific content to achieve the ultimate relevance.

5. Check Analytics Data

The only way to find out if your website is truly making a positive impact with mobile users is to track its performance. There are several tools available to conduct the necessary analysis, but Google Analytics is as good as any, in my opinion. Not only is it free, it tracks mobile sites and does it with admirable efficiency. Google Analytics helps you understand where your traffic is coming from in terms of OS platforms and specific devices, but more importantly, delivers the insights you need to create that awesome experience across all gadgets that come your way.

While the effectiveness of the trend can’t be disputed, it’s comforting to know that we have not yet reached the point where it’s responsive web design or die. As long as you stay creative in your approach, that should be a point you never reach.

 About guest blogger
Chiko Noguchi is a best practices activist and advocate for a leading provider of event marketing services. She can be found on @email_wiz.

Image courtesy of blog.gist

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