Is Your Website Mobile-Friendly?



Author: Dr. William D. Engilman



Mobile computing promises to change everything for consumers, from the way we pay our bills to the way we shop, plan, and commute. The wide array of mobile communications devices and the latest new mobile applications mean that it’s imperative for orthodontists to make sure their websites are ready for mobile devices.
Making Your Way on the Mobile Web
The mobile Web is here to stay. In the same way you look to the Web for valuable services, you also need to provide value for your potential customers.  Do you know how your existing website displays a mobile browser?  If not, you might be in for an unpleasant surprise! 
The mobile-friendliness of your Web page can either move you up or down in the mobile search engine rankings when people look for your services (but not necessarily you specifically) using a mobile browser.  Mobile browsers don’t always handle JavaScript, Flash or even cascaded style sheets (CSS) correctly. Sometimes they don’t handle them at all.

If your website has a lot of Flash animations, or makes heavy use of CSS, understand that the mobile user won’t find these helpful or attractive. In fact, these elements could actually drive mobile users away from your business.

You don’t have to redesign your website completely to accommodate mobile users, but rest assured, some changes are in order! Your web server can deliver information to your visitors based on how they view your site. Make a simple modification that allows your Web server to detect a mobile or traditional browser, and the server can issue one layout for visitors with desktop computers, and another layout for users with smartphones.

If you manage your own Web site, and you’re good with HTML and basic computer programming, you can modify your existing site relatively painlessly by setting up a “mirror” domain for mobile users, and adding a little bit of code on your main site that detects and responds to the type of browser a request for information is coming from.

If you have someone else design your website, let them know that you want to make your site mobile-friendly. These modifications are simple, and can even be tailored to deliver content to specific mobile devices if you want to add that level of detail. If this sounds complicated and/or expensive, here’s the best part: it’s not.

This small change will both improve your mobile search engine rankings and your customer service deliver at the same time.

Don’t dismiss your search engine position as unimportant. When someone is looking for a local orthodontist, you have a much better chance of making contact with the searcher if your practice is listed on the first page of the search engine results. Only dedicated searchers reach the second page of search results, and virtually no one at all sees Page 3.  If you’re listed on Page 4 of the local search results, new patients who are actively looking for your services will only see your competitors.

A mobile friendly website will be a big help to the mother who’s looking for your office phone number while she’s driving, or the new patient who’s not sure how to find your office.  It also preserves the function of your Web site for the user whose browser is prepared to take it all in.

What goes into making a mobile friendly page?  Mobile browsers are big on simplicity, so standard HTML and plain text are king. Forget long URLs, JavaScript, Flash animations, anchored images, scripts and all of the other things you may have added to your site to make it eye-catching.  Smartphones have decent data rates – 1 Mb/s or better, but a graphics-intensive Web site will deliver a quick beatdown to a mobile browser.

So, is your page mobile-friendly? The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)’s mobileOK Checker will assess your website and tell you just how mobile-friendly your Web site really is (or isn’t). Visit:

Enter your website’s URL and the mobileOK Checker will rate your site in terms of critical, severe, medium and low failures in specific categories. The mobileOK Checker looks for standard HTML, page size, how much network support a visitor needs to view your page, and mobile-friendly page design.

If you’re worried that your site won’t look good after making these changes, think about this: mobile users (who use very small display screens) prefer fast, accurate information over aesthetics every time. Simple sites decrease the mobile browser’s download time and improve the mobile user’s experience.  In the end, meeting the user’s needs is what it’s all about.

 

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