The mobile internet is becoming increasingly profuse through the use of cell phone applications and location based services (LBS). Most businesses have recognized the development of the medium and expand their sales and marketing strategies appropriately on the mobile Internet. But before mobile phone users get offers via Bluetooth, get invited with mobile coupons, and effective information in the vicinity, the company's public appearance should be eligible for mobile phones.

Many businesses, especially in the B2B area, are starting to assess the actual value of advertising on the mobile web. Right now, most of them are still assuming that utilizing the stationary web is already fulfilling the individual marketing requirements for their targeted consumer audience. However, by making this assumption, they forget the new inherent requirements that come with living in an age of mobility and flexibility. Today, most cell phone users have devices that are capable of connecting to the mobile web. New mobile phones like for instance the iPhone from Apple, the G1 from Google or the Palm are already catering to customers’ arousing curiosity and interest in new technologies, as these tiny hi-tech all-rounders offer easily high speed access to the internet. Combined with the new data tariffs of the mobile phone providers, it is rapidly turning into a media for the masses. And that’s the reason why every product should have a channel to the mobile web.

An advantage of mobile internet marketing is that it is often used in times when people are free and bored. When faced with a long train ride, people with access to the internet are likely to research products they are interested in or they use the opportunity to go though their business e-mails.

Another target audience for a company could be its employees and partners. For big enterprises with a large workforce the mobile Internet could be used as a convenient way to exchange information or news. A network can be established so that one message can instantly resonate throughout an entire company, which saves time and money.

The mobile Web idea

First, you have to think about whether you need to allocate a completely independent mobile web performance, or if there is a chance to use your existing Internet presence and adjust it to fulfil the mobile requirements. Websites that work intensively with pictures or dense editorials are not going to be mobile friendly. Most cell phone screens can only display a small portion of a website or minimize the site to such a degree that content isn’t readable anymore. This makes navigation on the page quite difficult and puts users off from browsing the web. If one’s own Web presence features a concise structure, a clearly arranged contents page, and graphical material is used moderately, it is recommended to use it for the mobile display as well in order to work as cost-efficiently as possible. In many cases however, the conception of a separate Web presence is an expedient measure to reach the appropriate target group, as products, offers and information can be presented, demonstrating at the same time competence and innovation to the reader. However, the attractiveness for the medium depends on its content and its presentation.

If you come to the decision to have your own mobile presence, several steps have to be considered:

Defining your appropriate mobile target group: Who is browsing your Website mobile?

Conducting a user analysis of their own internet traffic is routine for most companies. Who browses, when that person browses, which webpage and how long that person lingers on a certain webpage is all valuable data that can be easily monitored with common analysis software. But the target group of a stationary web browser may not necessarily be on the same level with the mobile audience. If, for instance, the usual visitors of an Internet magazine are women, between the ages of 45 and 60, it can be assumed by considering current studies that mobile browsing does not interest them, as they most likely only use their cell phone to make calls. However, if the visitors of an online shop for motorcycles are surveyed as men between the ages of 30 and 50, who earn well and are in the middle of their career life, it can be assumed that they are attracted to access the Web via their mobile phone. When defining a specific target group, social and economical demographics, personal interests, and user preferences must be analysed and coordinated. On the basis of the gained user profiles, it is in addition possible to evaluate their interest in specific cell phone models or innovativeness.

Defining the right mobile content: What should I make accessible via cell phone?

Putting your entire website on the small screen of a cell phone is often not really the best option. In general there are four types of characteristic websites:

  1. The informative Website 
    An organization or enterprise presents itself and its expertise along with its contact information. News and occurrences, related to the organization’s business, for example press releases, studies, or product presentations are regularly published there. Individuals may also use an informative website to put their career or personal information on display (for example as job applications or credentials).
  2. The business Website
    Companies that run their business activities mainly online – this includes mail order companies, online auction sites or online insurances.
  3. The topic-oriented Website
    These websites inform about a specific top in a selected context, like for instance dictionaries, travelogues, or cultural topics.
  4. News-related Websites
    The latest news, documentaries, and reports are located on news-related websites.

Each one of these four Website variants can be reduced to its basic message with regards to contents. A company’s informative website does not necessarily have to be structured the same way for the mobile performance. Usually the landing page with the newest information about the business, a rubric on services or the company’s product portfolio, and contact information is sufficient.

The business website benefits from being mobile through the fact that it is reduced to the bestsellers as well as the subtle use of pictures and texts.

Topic-oriented websites should also employ only the most popular and significant headings, but keep an eye on making sure to present interesting information only.

News-related websites are the winners by providing snippets of top stories on the landing page and should offer an opportunity to research topics in depth via additional sub categories.

A car rental company for instance makes the right decision if it displays only rental car offers on the mobile site and leaves out press releases or diverse specials. A person who wants to quickly reserve a rental car while travelling is most likely not really interested in what the newspaper has to say about the rental service or anything else. In general, the target audience will decide how the Website will look like.

The requirements of the mobile internet can be significantly different from those of a stationary performance. An over-simplification of the audience can be here a tremendous mistake.

Flawless navigation leaves a good first impression

The navigation set-up must be carried out even more stringently than recommended for stationary Websites. Most importantly, there should be a clear and concise marking of the links to allow the users a fast and unambiguous overview of the page content. It’s not uncommon that the visit to a mobile Website is discontinued due to a lack of scheme. The navigation should further not be too detailed, as the navigation and scrolling can be quite complex depending on the device.  

Mobile users love a clear page reproduction

Generally, the content of a mobile Webpage has to be presented according to user requirements. However, the majority of mobile sites have the same page configuration. Although not stipulated, it is proved to be very user friendly in practice. So, the business logo is usually at the top of the page, followed by two or three menu levels, which lead deeper into the navigation or simply contain some common links. Finally, the actual content area provides space for teasers with continuative links that give the user the option to actually read the whole article or to change his mind. In the footnote, users can eventually find less important information, for e. g. legal particulars.

The Design: Mobile eye candy

Simplicity is a desirable attribute in mobile web design. Less is more, as the user expects the site to be compressed and quick. Experimentation with exotic fonts or an excessive usage of colours should be avoided, too, as cell phone models possess only a limited range of colours, and do not reproduce them correctly when browsing the mobile web. Furthermore, there shouldn’t be long submission forms required, as most mobile phones are not geared to tedious, manual typing. Mobile websites should also be simplistic in design to avoid long load times, as due to the different bandwidths of the network technologies, the bid rates are still not comparable with those of the stationary internet. In addition, the use of the mobile internet is nonetheless relatively expensive, and this is why downloadable content rarely yields sufficient results. So, if topics have to be separated on the same page, simply put a dividing line between them. The mobile internet has to be more pragmatic and less creative in order to preserve efficiency.

Technical Conversion: How to reach your user best?

Many still remember Wireless Access Protocol (WAP), which was previously used as the basis for mobile Websites. In the meantime XHTML-Mobile Profile established itself as display language, but in addition to XHTML-MP, Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) can be used to design the web content as well. The large number of different cell phone models, which operate with different systems and surf the web with different browsers, requires an optimization of the mobile Website in that way that various access opportunities are allowed to work. This can be done either with the User Agent Profile or the based upon WURFL database (see BUZZwords). Both variations use the same technique of aligning the browser with the correct programming that allows the requested website to be viewed. The User Agent Profile is a XML file that is stored by the manufacturer and that contains a description of the working capacity of the device. The WURFL database is a XML document which contains operation data of nearly every mobile phone. Currently, the WURFL database includes around 400 devices. Both variations guarantee almost instant co-ordination of the used hard- and software and create the mobile display appropriately if the programming of the mobile Website is correct. In order to be able to work with the database, there are implementations for various script languages like PHP, Perl, Ruby, Python, .NET, as well as Java. 

Conclusion: Is your Internet Website ready for the mobile performance?

Keep in mind the following questions:

  1. How important is a mobile performance for my company/service/product?
  2. What kind of mobile target group do I intend to attract with my mobile Webpage?    
  3. Do I create a completely new mobile presence or do I adapt the already existing Internet display to the mobile environment?
  4. What exactly do I want to offer my mobile users?
  5. How much work do I have to invest in the making and maintaining of a mobile site, and do I have the necessary time and money?

If these answers are clarified, the first draft of the mobile site can be created. Currently a trend towards mobile usage of Web content is noted. In particular information- and service portals can expand their mobile Web activities profitably. Other companies get the chance to connect in a direct and innovative way with their employees, allowing an active participation in the company’s daily business life. A mobile Web performance is highly recommended if a stationary Website that is intensively used, always up to date, and at the pulse of time already exists. It’s an additional opportunity to access information on a particular brand and to strengthen the bond between company and target audience.

By Daniela La Marca