Mobile internet has come a long way. Handsets are more affordable and we now have 3G high speed data connection in almost every major city across America. Smartphones have larger LCDs, bigger storage, faster processors and supports 3D acceleration. Because of this, mobile browsers such as the ones found on the Apple iPhone and Nokia N95 can handle full HTML websites, but this is not going to be good enough for your business.
If you want to survive the mobile space, I suggest you look into building mobile optimized website as an expansion to your full website. The reason is because while smartphones can now render full HTML pages, the experience is not going to match the way it was intended to be viewed on a desktop monitor. Mobile Safari and Opera Mini’s ability to zoom in-n-out of full web, to me, is just a intermediate solution, allowing consumers to be connected to a website. When you factor in the average desktop monitor today has a resolution of 1280x1024 whilst smartphones have 240x320, the experience can’t be great. It is only an intermediary solution for people familiar with a website’s navigation, if you visit a complicated website for the first time on your iPhone, even thou full web is enabled, you would have a hard time making sense of its intended site navigation.
Mobile websites are no longer the watered-down, boring little text site which used to be called WAP protocol. Today’s Mobile web can be designed to capitalize on a smartphone’s advanced web browsers; to take advantage of the ability to handle images, background colors, tables and even CSS (shading, DIVs, etc.). The trick is to provide most useful navigation and information on the limited screen real estate. If you are a retailer, maybe put the “new arrivals,” “top sellers,” and “sales” section right up front. If you are a publisher, put the “just in,” “local news,” and “world news” up front. If you are a manufacturer, setup your mobile home page by the main categories of your products so a consumer can research them on the go. With a mobile web, you will want to keep “mobility” in mind, store locator and ability to set user location (via GPS, WiFi or manual setting) will be prudent to smart mobile strategy. Brick and mortar stores should definitely play up the location and inventory card (and toss in the price comparison card, you’ve got a winner!). You can always give your audience the option to switch between classic or mobile websites, this way, you can ensure the information they are searching for can be obtained, one way or another.
Over the weekend, I was at a Crate and Barrel looking for a TV Stand for a TV I was planning to purchase. I ended up pulling up full HTML Pioneer’s website over an iPhone 3G and waited forever to navigate and find the TV’s spec sheet to determine if the stand is too small. If they had a mobile-optimized page, I can probably get right to the Plasma TV section faster because the page would be friendlier for my viewing and loads faster with only limited information provided. As in this example, having a full HTML browser did save the day, however, my experience would have been much better if Pioneer had a mobile-optimized site.