One in three of your customers use their phone to search online for websites like yours. Without a mobile-friendly site, you risk losing customers. And they only take 10 minutes to set up!
“HELLO? HELLO? NO I CAN’T HEAR YOU, I’M AT AN ART GALLERY – NO, IT’S RUBBISH.” So the joke went for Dom Joly, whose regular ploy of answering a gigantic mobile phone in an obnoxiously loud way for hidden-camera comedy show Trigger Happy TV was a defining TV memory for a generation.
Oh, we laughed – but we also empathised with the unsuspecting public being pranked each time, so familiar were we all with the irritating answer-it-anywhere ubiquity of the mobile phone.
Now, thanks to the new dawn of smartphones, most mobile-users are too busy emailing , tweeting, working or Googling to bother actually talking into their phone. Mobile mania is more prolific than ever before – some 91 per cent of adults now own a mobile, according to 2011 research from OfCom.
Yet the humble mobile has evolved so far that it is, for many handset owners, a handheld computer first and a telephone second.
The phone-as-computer trend is growing fast. Today, 47 per cent of Brits have a smartphone, according to YouGov. Next year it’s expected to hit 57 per cent, while one in three mobile owners currently use their phone to browse the internet, according to OfCom.
Why should you care? Because the public are now making business decisions based on information they find through their phones.
This means if you don’t have a mobile-friendly web presence that’s easy to use for smartphone web browsers, you’ll miss out on custom. (If you’ve never considered whether your website is mobile-friendly, then you can pretty much guarantee it isn’t – more on that in a bit.)
The importance of having a mobile-friendly website
Last year, Google conducted a meaty investigation into how people search for information online. It discovered that 68 per cent of local information seekers call or visit a business after looking up local information on their smartphone. Almost half of smartphone shoppers said they had been influenced into a buying decision as a result of using their smartphone
It’s worth hovering on that idea of “local information seekers” for a minute. If you’ve got a smartphone, chances are you’ll have used it to look up directions for that shop you couldn’t find, or searched for the address of the consultant you were on your way to meet, or Googled the phone number of the restaurant you’re on your way to because you were running late.
This is the way the smartphone-wielding public wants their information served now: in the palm of their hands the minute that they need it, on the go.
So, going back to those times you’ve used your smartphone to search online for business information, ask yourself this: have you ever tried to get an address off a business website only to find yourself maniacally zooming in and out, with the pages not loading properly and all the text and images appearing oddly, unable to locate the critical bit of info you need as you cower under a bus shelter in the pouring rain trying to get directions?
Thought so. We’ve all been there. And it’s poorly designed business websites that are to blame. Actually, that’s not quite fair. It’s not the website design at fault, but the fact it’s not optimised for mobile.
The most beautifully-designed websites can look horrid on a mobile: text and images don’t align properly, things overlap where they shouldn’t, links are in the wrong place and everything just goes a bit wrong. Or everything shrinks down so much it’s impossible to read. Try your website on your phone to see what I mean.
The problem of not having a mobile-friendly website is endemic in the SME community. A study by Hexus revealed that three-quarters of the 400 websites of small business owners surveyed didn’t have a mobile-friendly version.
Now, stick with me here, because I know you’ll be recoiling as soon as I suggest anything technical that might need the (often ridiculously costly) involvement of web developers.
The thing is, it doesn’t have to be remotely expensive nor even slightly complicated to have a mobile-optimised website.
In fact, it can be much easier than setting up a normal website.
As Phil Murray, a Hatton Garden jeweller in his 70s, can testify: “I had tried to get a normal website, but it proved really difficult, even with help,” he says.
“I’d seen adverts on the television for ‘easy’ websites but honestly it was all too confusing and I had no idea how much it would cost to keep going.”
Then one day as he was chatting with friends in the pub, someone mentioned a new solution called Telnames that allows you to create a mobile-friendly web presence that is low cost – less than £15! – and very straightforward. This video explains more:
Murray favoured the idea of a mobile-friendly web presence because: “Recently, whenever I’ve been travelling to work on the train, I’m noticing people more and more using smartphones, at bus stops, everywhere basically. They’re using this time to watch videos or do something productive like searching on the web for presents.”
Therein lay the opportunity: to ensure that if people were browsing for jewellery in London on their smartphones, they would find his business, then visit it.
Creating a mobile web presence
To create his mobile-optimised site, Murray says, “We sat down and I filled it in and it was nearly instantaneous in appearing on the web. It was amazing!
“It was really a simple case of filling in a form with the information I wanted to show, uploading some pictures and putting in a link to a video, and then it was all done automatically. I couldn’t believe how easy and quick it was… even for someone like me who doesn’t know one end of a computer cable from another!”
The process absolutely should be simple, because the key to a mobile web presence for business is to keep information to a minimum and keep the design pared down. If a potential customer is looking you up on their smartphone they don’t want to be bombarded by reams of prose about your products – they just need the basics, quickly.
Mobile-friendly web presences: design 101
– Keep the design clean and simple
– You only need to include basic information: contact details and address, a brief description of what your business offers, opening hours, any social media links and a map
– Include a section telling the customer where they can get more information on your business if they need it
– Include a link back to your full non-mobile website if you have one
– Featuring an easy-to-browse picture gallery and/or video of products and services can really bring the site to life
Below is an example so you can see what we mean. The design is clean and simple, making it as easy as possible for browsers to quickly find the key information they need.
Murray decided to use Telnames to guide him through this process on the recommendation of
friends, and because it allowed him to create http://philmurray.tel in such a simple way. But getting a .tel mobile web presence has had the great advantage of making his business more visible online to customers too.
“Now, if you search for ‘Phil Murray Hatton Garden’, my .tel name is first in the list out of over 21 million results! Whereas before you’d never find anything to do with me,” he says.
This boost to SEO (search engine optimisation, i.e. where your website ranks in search engine results) is invaluable. It’s the kind of thing companies pay thousands of pounds for each month. Luckily for Murray, the .tel name has granted him that visibility in search engine results for less than £15 per year.
In fact, we at LondonlovesBusiness.com have been so impressed by Telnames that we’ve decided to partner with them. We love the fact that you can set up a .tel web address so incredibly easily, cheaply and quickly. (You don’t have to use the .tel suffix to have a mobile-optimised web presence, but Telnames is the only company with this unique offering for SMEs.)
We believe it’s critical that London SMEs wake up to the way customers are searching for business information, and to start catering to that. It’s tragic that in times like this London companies are missing out on potential sales because they haven’t taken this simple step. Because if potential customers can’t find what they need about your business on their phones, when they need it, they simply won’t bother. They’ll go elsewhere.
And a .tel mobile web website really does work. Murray has just won his first customer from his .tel name. “It’s fantastic. I think my .tel name has paid for itself many times over already and I’ve only had it a couple of weeks!”
Realised it’s time to get one for yourself? Then check out our special offer brought to you in partnership with Telnames below – you could get your own .tel site for just £9.95, a saving of £5, and you could have it set up in less than 10 minutes. What are you waiting for?
To get a Telnames mobile-friendly website visit Telnames.com and enter offer code “LLB120” at the point of checkout. This offer is valid until 31 July 2012.