Here’s why you need a Mobile Website and how to design one

Mobile and Standard Websites
Jonathan Kyobe

Jonathan Kyobe

Editor’s Note: Jonathan Kyobe is a contributing writer for the TechPost. He  is an IT Consultant, a Web and Graphic  Designer, blogger, Model and a Sport fanatic. Follow  @yellojona on twitter.

You have made a very crucial decision to develop a website for your firm, organization or company and everyone that visits it applauds you for a very pretty website. However, have you ever taken trouble to try browsing this same website on a Mobile phone?

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More often than not, you will not like what your website looks when browsed off a mobile browser. If you experience the same, then you are not alone. Nearly all custom designed websites in Africa suffer from flaws or incompatibility with mobile browsers. Usually these websites load very slowly and are so troublesome to navigate… Why is this a problem?

Affordability and convenience of Internet via Mobile phones

It is so evident that Internet usage in Africa is on a rise. However, it is also obvious that most of us use our Mobile phones to access Internet much more often than on our Computers (PC). The relative expense of traditional PCs and laptops and broadband connections means that most people regularly access the Internet not over traditional PCs but using their Mobile phones.

TechPost on Mobile

TechPost on Mobile

Smartphones are making it even easier and more convenient. This is an international trend as the popularity of Mobile phones increases and their usage rates rise above that of traditional PCs. It is no surprise that now Facebook and twitter have most of their traffic from Mobile phones. This means that many will try to access your website too using a mobile phone because mobile internet is more convenient and affordable. Which gives you reason to think along the lines of developing a mobile version of your website since “Mobile” is the the new trend.

Ordinary Web Pages don’t automatically render well on Mobile phones

When you type in your mobile browser the URL you will end up on a very nicely designed Facebook page. However when you take a keen look at the browser URL you will notice that on Mobile phones you are automatically redirected from to

This second URL is the address of the mobile optimized version of Facebook. Facebook did this intentionally to help you access the PC web browser version of Facebook on your phone  with no difficulties. If it was the standard website, the pages and images would take forever to load, you would have to do a lot of scrolling to access the information.

This is the case with most websites with smaller screens and different capabilities to web browsers, most mobile browsers of older  phones which only support WAP, cannot accurately render an ordinary web page. Newer Smartphones which support HTML5 rendering may be able to avoid this problem.

Web developers thus need to develop mobile versions of their websites to cater for mobile phone owners to allow them to consume web content easily on their devices.

Mobile site content gets better SEO

It should come as good news that ranking and search on mobile is easier because Google has a much smaller content under mobile to crawl through, as this segment is still in its infancy. Therefore, if businesses get a mobile site today, they stand a very good chance of being highly ranked.

How could you then implement a mobile website?

For the small business that cannot afford to put resources into independent mobile website development there are many free and paid services available that can help you set up a mobile version of your website in minutes.

Services such as Mobify and Onbile and Wirenode (used by companies such as Nokia, Reebok, Ford, Nivea and Vodafone), give you great, user-friendly editors that will allow you to quickly format and create a mobile version of your website in minutes. They provide you with the necessary script to add to your website to automatically redirect mobile users to the mobile version of your site.

If you use the WordPress publishing platform on your website, a perfect option would be the MobilePress plugin which will render your website on mobile platforms. If you’re looking to develop specific iPhone/iPod Touch apps, iWebKit is a very popular option that can even be used by those without extensive coding knowledge.

As you can see, mobile website development is not only a necessity, but currently and projected relatively easy. I only hope that more of our businesses and web developers will follow suit and make it easier for ordinary web users to  access and consume their web content.

  • Jonathan, Thanks for the Post. I totally agree with you. I wrote a similar post on the same in 2011 ( imploring companies to consider designing or optimizing their websites for the mobile experience.

    However, today with the advent of mobile App bubble, should a business design a custom native mobile App(like the CNN, BCC, NYT Apps) rather than making their sites mobile friendly? I know that Mobile Apps offer the best user experience for users, but is it expensive considering that you’ve to develop across almost 5 different platforms (Android, iOS, BB, Windows Phone 8, Symbian)?

    No doubt mobile can’t be ignored, but i think the debate should be around Native Vs Mobile web (or HTML5 if am correct).

    • Web Apps are also a great idea, how ever there are a few limitations Vs a Mobile Website;

      1. a mobile website is instantly accessible to users via a browser across a range of devices (iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, etc).

      2.A mobile website is much more dynamic than an app in terms of pure flexibility to update content.

      3.Mobile websites are much easier for users to find because their pages can be displayed in search results

      4.Mobile website URLs are easily shared between users via a simple link
      (e.g. within an email or text message, Facebook or Twitter post)

  • Despite the many inherent benefits of the mobile web, apps are still very popular, and there are a number of specific use scenarios where an app will be your best choice. Generally speaking, if you need one of the following, an app makes sense:

    – for interactive games (think Angry Birds) an app is almost always going to be your best choice, at least for the foreseeable future.
    – If your target users are going to be using your app in a personalized fashion on a regular basis (think EverNote) then an app provides a great way to do that.
    – If you need something that will take data and allow you to manipulate it with complex calculations, charts or reports (think banking or investment) an app will help you do that very effectively.
    – mobile web browsers are getting increasingly good at accessing certain mobile-specific functions such as click-to-call, SMS and GPS. However, if you need to access a user’s camera or processing power an app will still do that much more effectivley.
    – If you need to provide offline access to content or perform functions without a network/wireless connection then an app makes sense.

    • Thanks, i now understand which one to implement in what circumstances.

  • Jonathan, thanks for this very good article. You make a good point, especially about older phones.

    Properly-designed mobile websites need to cater to all users, not just to smartphone owners.

    We at try to make effortless to design a mobile website that is truly effective on top-notch smartphones and tablets, but also on old devices, which are still widely used in Africa and South-East Asia.

    People tend to think only to the U.S., Europe or Japan when designing their mobile sites, thus forgetting that yeat a large user base lives outside the G8 countries.

    • I totally agree…Designers need to make mobile website that render well on all phones.
      Thanks for appreciating the post.

  • Native vs Mobile-friendly site vs Non-mobile optimized site : Bottom line, depends on your type of users and what their expectations from your site are.

    – If your target users are (primarily) desktop/laptop computer users then you do not need to optimize for mobile – Moral: Measure your traffic, observe trends in your specific sector

    – HTML 5 vs Native Apps for mobile – again depends on the user experience required. Netflix has just dropped its Silverlight based UI (not mobile but a native application) and gone HTML 5 all the way, at the same time LinkedIn and WordPress have dropped HTML5 for performance reasons. Moral – what provides the best user experience for your customers and how does it transform into $$$$$
    – HTML5 and Native – well look at RapidFTR project with both web based and Android app platforms based on their needs
    – Non-mobile optimized – if the cost of switching does not provide a business case … (I have not run into any but I expect that there are cases), hey that is why some organizations are still stuck on Windows XP due to the fact that web apps were coded to IE 6

    Overall – no silver bullet … but depends on customer expectations, your business expertise (both internal and external), and market trends …

  • That is so true! Paying attention to detail, I mean these are the “little things” & we all know how little things matter the most. Great informative piece.

    • thanks, there is more in stalk for you and us!!
      Watch this space

  • Moses

    Another great piece of writing Jonathan, I think many companies or website owners are realizing that they have to adopt to the changes in the market to cater for the growing number of mobile/ micro-site users.

    • This is very true. Everyone has to adopt to and adapt the change in trend.
      Thank you for your comment