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As Patrick talked about on Monday, 2009 may turn out to be the year for mobile internet, and companies need to be thinking about their mobile strategies.
Some websites have already adapted well to the use of mobile internet, but others seemingly have a long way to go. A new ebook (pdf) from dotMobi takes a look at the best and worst on the mobile web.
Here are a few best practice tips for mobile websites...
Have a mobile version of your site
While iPhones and Blackberries make it easier to access standard versions of websites on the move, not every mobile internet users has one, and even on these phones, dedicated mobile sites are often more usable.
The BBC's mobile site, which I recently compared with the ITV version, is given as a best practice example; it is simple and easy to use if you want the latest news and sport, as well as offering video content.
Getting information on train times and tickets is one obvious use for mobiles, but thetrainline.com is criticised for offering no mobile version of its site, which makes it hard for users who may need information in a hurry.
Actually, The Trainline does have a mobile version of its site, but it doesn't divert users to it, and is so hard to find on the website that I can understand why it has been criticised, though National Express is equally guilty in this respect.
Divert users to the mobile version of the website
If you have a mobile site, then diverting users to it when they are on their phones will save time hunting around for a link to the mobile version. Even on smartphones, navigating through a busy homepage can be tricky, try the BBC homepage on an iPhone for example.
Sending users straight to the mobile version makes it easier for them, while the option of viewing the standard website can alway be provided.
Keep it simple
Mobile internet users will often need information on a hurry, so removing any unnecessary content and visual decoration is a must to cut down on load times and distractions.
For instance, eBay has produced a stripped down version of its site for mobile, as well as an iPhone app with a bit more functionality, which just gives users a basic search box and My eBay summary.
Amazon Mobile is another good example of this, producing a simple and usable mobile site which still retains most of the useful features of the standard version.
Optimise for different mobile devices
There are plenty of different mobile phones around and designers of mobile sites need to be able to detect the device and give users the most appropriate version of the site.
As with browsers and screen resolutions with standard websites, if you need to appeal to a wide audience, then you need to cater for as many different mobiles as possible.
Remember users' details
Entering login details, which often contain email addresses, are time consuming and tricky to enter on small mobile keypads, so remembering these details makes it that much easier for users, and is more important for mobile websites.
Don't make users register first
I found this when looking at some newspaper mobile sites recently, and The Guardian was the worst offender here. To access the site on mobile, you first had to register with AvantGo, the newspaper's mobile provider.
This meant that, before being able to access Guardian mobile, I had to enter my email address and set a password, as well as giving details about my gender, age, income etc.
I'm not sure how popular the Guardian's mobile site is currently, but I'm sure they would have had more users if not for this unnecessary signup process.
Mobile Internet Roundtable Briefing - June 2008