The answer? VERY.
One safe haven for web designers and developers in the past was the knowledge that their websites were always going to be viewed by someone using a desktop computer, with a mouse and a keyboard.
This is not the case anymore. The wide-spread adoption of smartphones and tablets means there are now more mediums available for accessing web content than ever before. Furthermore, a recent study has shown that should mobile web browsing continue to grow at the same rate it currently is, that mobile browsing will surpass desktop browsing as early as 2015.
Mobile app usage has already surpassed mobile and web browsing, and developers have started responding to this change with a huge influx of apps reaching the market in the past year. It is now time for web developers to follow suit.
The key to success is being able to differentiate between your mobile and desktop website consumers. Consider a scenario where you have just launched your website, and want to get as many people looking at it as possible. A potential client decides they would like to check it out, but on their smartphone. They arrive at your stand-alone website barely able to navigate around it, or read and interact with any of the content. That’s one potential client lost. Hence the importance of providing a separate mobile version of your site with enhanced usability designed specifically for the mobile phone.
Mobile websites are not only important to provide greater usability though, there are many more reasons why having a mobile version of your website is becoming vital:
- Faster loading times – This is a particularly important aspect of mobile websites to consider. The majority of mobile web browsing is obviously carried out on the move, where users have significantly slower 3G based connection speeds available. Having a smaller mobile site with less content and smaller images will help reduce these loading times greatly. With 4G soon to be introduced worldwide, these load times are only set to decrease even further.
- Search Engine Performance – Google has it’s own separate index for mobile sites. Those companies who adopted mobile websites in the past stood a much better chance of higher page rankings in a much less competitive search. Now though, as more and more mobile websites appear, you are actually reducing the chances of your website appearing in search results by not supplying a mobile version.
- Compatibility – Ensuring your website appears and performs in the same way on all of the major desktop based browsers has always been a topic of huge importance to web developers and designers alike. The rise of mobile browsing has only helped to increase the importance of this issue. Their are hundreds of smartphones out there, each with differing screen sizes, resolutions and technology support. Relying on your desktop website to perform correctly on these mobile devices can be seen as hopeful and naive at best. A heavily flash based website is unlikely to be at all usable on the Iphone for example. A simple and concise mobile website ensures your website will perform perfectly on all platforms.
There is one final reason why having a mobile website is important, it is recommended by Google. They have recently announced a new initiative named How To Go Mo which further outlines the importance of mobile development. It enables you to view your website in a mobile emulator and produces a report on how mobile friendly it is. If Google thinks something is an important subject, then it invariably is.