Doing the maths: Budget advice on building a mobile-optimised site

25th Aug 2014

It’s no secret that it’s near impossible to succeed as a business today without having a website, but just having a website is no longer enough. SMEs in the UK are missing out on up to £77bn in annual revenues as a result of not having mobile-optimised websites, according to research commissioned by Hibu.

The Hibu survey found that nearly 90% of SMEs believed that improving their website could bring about an increase of an average 5% in revenue – the rough equivalent of £23,000 a year. But, despite mobile browsing not only growing in its pervasiveness, but becoming the way that we access the internet, the research found that just 10% of UK SMEs have optimised their websites for mobile.

This is despite the fact that research by Google in 2012 found that two-thirds of smartphone users believe a mobile-friendly site would make them more likely to buy or use that business’s service.

By not having a mobile site you are not only losing out on potential business, you are giving your competitors a distinct advantage. It’s like opening a shop that you can only enter by way of a series of ropes, pulleys and ladders.

Talking of shops, mobile growth continues to accelerate. With 72% of the UK population reported to own a smartphone in 2013 it is no surprise that online shopping and retail transactions are being increasingly conducted via mobile phone. UK consumers spent £2.9 billion through mobile shopping during Christmas 2013 – a figure which is double on the same time during 2012. Mobile shopping now makes up for more than a third of all online purchases and those businesses that are not set up for mobile need to catch up fast.

It isn’t just purchasing, many other behaviours follow from mobile growth including mobile emails, mobile wallet, showrooming and location finding. Smartphones are notoriously changing the way we shop and businesses are missing a trick by not mobile-optimising their websites.

Luckily, creating a mobile website need not cost a bank-breaking sum of money.

For those with a low budget (£15k and below)

A large budget isn’t necessary for a smart and elegant mobile site, but it’s important in this case to not attempt to go all out. We recommend using a pre-existing theme for a content management system like Wordpress. There are plenty of CMS to choose from, but Wordpress suits simplicity and a lower budget as there are a wealth of plugins available. Plus it’s open source, meaning that people are adding useful tweaks all the time.

Using pre-existing themes will give you out-of-the-box mobile functionality with minimal fuss or start-up delays. It doesn’t mean that you’re short of options either, there are thousands of themes available. Sites like Theme Forest have many different options to choose from and all are relatively inexpensive. With so many on offer, you’re guaranteed to find something to suit your taste, but it is important to be selective.

Once you’ve made a choice on what sort of plugins, features and themes you want to use, you then need to make sure that they are the right fit for your business, that they are installed properly and that they are optimised. This is the process that you’ll need help with, as it takes knowledge, time and money. The end result is a smart, functional and simple mobile website that will offer all basic features to mobile visitors.

For those with a higher budget (£30k and above)

With a higher budget you have space to make your mobile responsive website a bit more dynamic, a bit more reactive, and a bit more likely to convert visitors into customers.

With a higher budget you can work with complex, but highly beneficial tools such as DOM (Document Object Model) frameworks that include features such as animations and network communication. These ensure you are able to author and test your CSS & JQuery for the multitude of browsers and mobile devices visiting your site. That way you not only optimise your website for mobile, but for all possible mobiles. It will also give your mobile site a true personalised feel – it won’t look like any other mobile website out there.

Being selective is even more important with a bigger budget, simply because you’ll have more to play with. Set objectives for your site and then evaluate which features and options will best help you achieve this. You need to think about what your user will be looking for, and what features they might want on a mobile site; in short you need to take a thorough look at your UX (user experience) design. This way your end result will be an entirely user-centric site that not only keeps visitors on the site because it is accessible via mobile, but because every aspect is geared toward delivering smooth, easy and attractive usability.

Of course, you must be prepared for a degree of flexibility and experimentation along the path to success, but with a bit more money to play with, this investigation process will not only prove less stressful, but more fruitful.

With your mobile site sorted, you can rest easy in the knowledge that those who visit it will be happy that they’ve arrived. 

Rudi Hoppe is UX & development director at Southerly

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