Why your website should be mobile friendly

Everyone, it seems, has a smartphone. And they use it a lot, even when you thought they were paying rapt attention to your conversation.

There is little fresh data, but 2015 research from the Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C., indicates 92 percent of Americans have cellphones; two-thirds of us have smartphones. Of those with smartphones, 89 percent have used them to search the internet; 60 percent to research information about a health issue; 57 percent to do online banking; 43 percent to look up job information; and 97 percent to send a text message.

Now think which device your customers - and prospects - are most likely to use to check out your website. Yep: Their smartphone.

What that means is that IT advisers and graphic designers who say your website should be optimized for mobile display (how the site looks on tablets and smartphones) probably are right. It's not that your web information won't show on a smaller screen, it's that if you don't optimize, user phones and tablets will take over the process of adjusting your big screen website to fit smaller screens.

You may not like the results.

But there are more important reasons to optimize your website for mobile devices. "One," says Jason Burton, "is that search engines give (mobile compatible) websites a higher page rank." Burton is a small business focused IT consultant at Chicago (IL) Technology Consulting. (Disclosure: He's my IT guy and earlier this year optimized my website.)

Search rank is important. Not only does having a mobile-friendly website help search results, not optimizing for mobile can hurt. "Google," says Dave Davenport, CEO of Itasca-based IT managed service provider MotherG, "lowers your rank if you're not mobile friendly."

There's more. "If you're conducting any type of commerce on your website, mobile optimization is super important," Burton says. "Forms. Fields. Checkout. You have to make it easy for buyers to purchase from their small screens."

"Probably half the stuff I buy on the web I buy on my phone," adds Davenport. "Everything is times 10 for e-commerce."

A website redesign that encompasses mobile most likely will encompass a content management system as well. The benefit is that once the revitalized site is in place, you, or someone on your staff, can make content changes.

There's no more calling in costly help to change a product price or fix a typo.

In fact, graphic designer Dan Noramczyk, creative director at Connor J Design Inc., LaSalle, suggests that content management is the biggest reason why smaller businesses should update their websites.

It's interesting that Noramczyk hasn't updated his own website in four years, which leads to a discussion of website strategy. "I don't get much business from my site," Noramczyk explains. "If your site functions well and meets customer needs, how often do you need to update?"

Davenport likely would agree. Website decisions "should start with your business strategy," he says.

• © 2016 Kendall Communications Inc. Follow Jim Kendall on LinkedIn and Twitter. Write him at Listen to Jim's Business Owners' Pod Talk at

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