Why do I need a Mobile Website? And how do I get started?

Here’s a question for the ages: how often do you walk by a restaurant and see a family sitting at a table with everyone looking at their smartphones, and no one talking to one another?

If you’re like most of us, the answer is: pretty often. People are addicted to their portable devices.

Small children use them as electronic babysitters, subway riders entertain themselves, and friends post messages on one another’s Facebook pages. There’s even a phenomenon called iPhone Separation Anxiety that’s been the subject of academic research and studies.

Whether we like it or not, personal electronics are now an important part of our culture. In India, for example, there are estimated to be 360 million smartphones and in China that number is over 700 million.

Your business almost certainly has a website. Today, virtually every company, from small to large needs a website to carry on business. In the 21st century, that’s how customers find you. Doctors and lawyers have websites, restaurants have them, and even convenience stores have them.

Here’s the next important question. Is your website optimized for mobile users? Don’t laugh - it’s a serious question. Even if your company is strictly Business-to-Business, you can’t afford to ignore mobile users.

According to a report from comScore, over 60 percent of online traffic now comes from mobile devices. And according to Search Engine Watch, 77 percent of executives use their smartphone to research a product or service for their business.

Let’s assume that one of those executives is sitting in an airport lounge, looking for products or services that your company offers. When they click on your website, will they see something that displays properly on their smartphone, a website that’s easy to navigate and easy on the eyes? Or will they see your regular website, in tiny, unreadable print?

The major reason that customers leave your website is that it doesn’t communicate an effective message.

If you paid good money to a web designer to create a website that does communicate your company message effectively and prospective customers can’t navigate your site because it doesn’t work well on their mobile device, you could be losing business opportunities.

Unfortunately, many small businesses make the mistake of thinking that a website created by their 16-year old nephew will suffice. The truth is, no matter how smart that 16-year old may be, he doesn’t have the depth of experience of a seasoned web designer. The same consideration applies to using one of the many “canned” website solutions that you see advertised on late-night television.

Yes, you can create a reasonably attractive website using those tools. But, once you get into things like creating online response forms, and mobile-capable websites, those tools just don’t cut it.

If you have a small, home-based business with 1 or 2 employees, then maybe one of those simple solutions will work. But if you’re running a real bricks-and-mortar business with infrastructure and staff costs, you need a website that presents your company in the very best light.

That means using a web developer with both skills and experience. When we redesigned our website, we hired an experienced developer and our new site is considerably more attractive and mobile-friendly.

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be expensive. These days there are plenty of experienced developers equipped with state-of-the-art tools. Many of them will do the work for you for a fixed monthly fee which includes hosting, rather than charging you an upfront fee.

The most important consideration is to do your research. Make sure you see some of the developer’s other work, and talk to some of their clients. Even if they do great design work, you need to be sure that they’re responsive when you need changes. What if there’s an error on your website? You don’t want to have to wait a week - or longer - for it to be corrected.

In short, a good website can help your business grow and flourish. Make sure that yours appeals to the widest possible audience by making it mobile-friendly.