How and When to Build a Mobile Website

Mobile technology experts discuss which enterprises need a mobile presence, the important questions to ask when developing a mobile website, what pitfalls to avoid and what to expect to pay.

By Jennifer Lonoff Schiff
Wed, February 15, 2012

CIO — As of November 2011, 91.4 million people in the United States owned smartphones, according to comScore. That was an 8 percent increase over just a few months before. And if the trend continues, as most analysts and smartphone vendors believe it will, the number of individuals in the United States with a smartphone will be close to, if not exceed, 100 million by March 2012 — that's nearly one out of three Americans. And that's not including the number of people using iPads and tablet PCs, which was well over 15 million as of June 2011, per CTIA, the Wireless Association.

Who are these people and what are they doing with these mobile devices? They are your customers, your employees and your partners — and more than 40 percent of them are using their mobile devices to browse the web (and shop online) and download apps. And that percentage is expected to increase. However, a majority of businesses have failed to "mobilize," that is, create a mobile version of their website, or a mobile app.

Does that mean that every business or organization needs a mobile website? No. But if you currently have a B2C or B2B digital presence and/or the people you do business with are mobile, it's time you had a mobile strategy.

Do You Need a Mobile Website?

According to Ted Schadler, a vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research who covers enterprise issues, you can determine if your organization needs a mobile website by asking the following questions.

  1. Does the organization currently have a website that is regularly used by customers?

  2. Do the people you are trying to reach use smartphones or tablets on a regular basis?

  3. Can mobile provide opportunities that a traditional web presence — or other channels — can't or doesn't do as well?

  4. Would customers (or employees or partners) benefit from having information at the moment of decision?

If you answered "yes" to two or more of these questions, you should probably (if not definitely) have a mobile presence (either a mobile website or a native app, or possibly both).

Think of mobile as "a system of engagement," as a way to improve the way you engage with customers, employees and partners, explained Schadler. For example, let's say you run a real estate company, or are a developer. Prior to mobile, if a customer wanted information about a house, she'd have to call the real estate agency or developer or look up the information on her computer. With mobile, however, you can provide prospective buyers with the information they need on their smartphones, when they are right in front of the house.

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