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Digital Advantage column: Why mobile matters to your local business

By By Jason Holmes
Nov. 27, 2013 at 5:27 a.m.


You see the same phenomenon all around you.

Children, teenagers, young adults, parents and even grandparents are all on their phones almost all the time. They're texting, browsing, playing, shopping, texting some more, checking email, checking in on Facebook, downloading music, tweeting, reading news and sharing photos and videos. They're doing everything except actually speaking on the phone.

Our society has become hypermobile. Next time you're stopped at a light, take a moment and look at the cars around you. Chances are you'll see more than one person on their phones. Mobile use in the vehicle is a serious safety concern, for sure, but that's not the jurisdiction of this column. Let's discuss what mobile means to your business.

When it comes to your mobile Web presence, there are two primary approaches:

1. Mobile website: This is the approach that you see most often - sites that are specifically designed to display properly on mobile devices. When a website uses mobile website design, the Web server detects the user's device and chooses which website to display. For instance, when I visit foxnews.com on my iPhone, the server automatically redirects my device to foxnews.mobi. If I want a full experience, then I have to choose to "view full site" at the bottom of the page. This was the best approach for years. However, with larger mobile phone devices like the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 coming on the scene, the mobile site approach becomes less reliable. These devices aren't like smaller smartphones but aren't quite tablets either. In order to display a usable yet rich experience, designers need to consider the responsive web design approach.

2. Responsive design: Responsive Web design is an approach that resizes the core site based on the screen size of the visitor. For instance, if I visit your site on my iPhone while another user visits on a tablet or desktop consumer, we all see different versions of the same site. The details are technical for non-website developers, but the beauty of responsive design is in its adaptive nature and single URL structure.

If you, as a mobile device user, share a URL from a responsive site with friends on Facebook or through email, then it doesn't matter what device your friends are using. The URLs are the same on a desktop computer, tablet or smartphone.

There are no m.website.com or website.mobi URL structures to deal with and far less maintenance required once the responsive design is implemented versus redundant updates that need to be made on separate mobile and desktop iterations.

For these reasons and several others, Google has declared that responsive web design is an "industry best practice." For this reason alone, business owners should consider responsive web design.

So beyond Google's declaration, why should you, as a small or medium business owner concern yourself with a mobile strategy? Think about all of those people around you in traffic, in restaurants, in stores - your store - spending time and attention on their phones and tablets. If you've invested heavily in your website and Internet presence but haven't considered your mobile audience, it's time to do so. Reminds me of the saying, "Culture destroys strategy." Our culture is mobile.

Jason Holmes is the general manager of Advocate Digital Media, a sister company to The Victoria Advocate that focuses on digital marketing. He welcomes questions and column ideas at jtholmes@advocatedigital.com.

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