Mobile will be the #1 game changer for your photography website this year. You already know the importance of the mobile Internet and recognize that is presents either a huge opportunity or liability for your business. The opportunity is 46% of US consumers own a smartphone and 20% own a tablet. I did an informal analytics survey of photographers and found that 15% of photography website traffic comes via mobile devices. Either you can make your web content accessible to this audience or miss the boat.
Do You Need an App?
First let’s understand the difference between an app and a mobile-site. With an app, the user downloads a program, and then open the shortcut to that program when they want to use it. A mobile site is just a different webpage that displays when the browser lives on a mobile device (including tablet computers).
Mobile versions of sites are important so when someone visits from Facebook or Google they can clearly see the website information without much trouble. Same website, just a different view that occurs automatically. These are affordable and easy to implement either with a free website plug-in or you can have a website developer code you a simple one. Most of the major photography website platforms like Creative Motion Design include mobile versions as a part of their standard templates.
For apps I recommend Sticky Albums (affiliate). It allows you to create custom mobile apps for each client (or partner) showcasing your photos, your logo, link back to your website and a custom app icon the customer can choose. When traditional app development costs over two thousand dollars, Sticky Albums is a no brainer for less than $200 as an easy way to get word of mouth referrals from clients’ phones.
Check Your Mobile Traffic in Google Analytics
All photographers should use Google Analytics for tracking web statistics. From the Standard Reporting tab click Audience from the left navigation then choose Mobile > Overview. I was going a coaching call last night with a photographer and we saw 485 mobile visits out of 1999 total visits (1,514 + 485).
A whopping 24% of her traffic was coming from mobile and she asked me if that was good or bad. My response: what’s your site look like on a device? If it looks good then the number doesn’t matter much, but if it’s bad then anything above 5% would be concerning as a major segment being turned away by a bad online experience. If you currently have Google AdWords (paid search campaigns) running then a number above 10% should give you enough reason to create a completely separate campaign for Google, like a click to call upgrade.
Do You Know What Your Site Looks Like?
Most photographers have never checked how their site behaves on a smart phone. Ideally, you’ll want to see it on an iPhone, iPad, and Android device because they all act completely differently. Without access to lots of different smart phones, see what your customers see by testing your site at Google’s Go Mobile site.
Or this slick iPad preview at http://ipadpeek.com/. Make sure to test more than just your homepage. For example, does your About Page and Contact Page still look great?
Ask yourself these questions when viewing your site on a mobile device:
- Do you see broken images or missing content?
- Can you read the text without zooming or scrolling side to side?
- Can links and buttons be clicked with a thumb?
- Are navigation options obvious?
- How long does it take the page to load (less than 5 seconds is recommended)
It goes beyond websites too. More than half of my email newsletters are read via iPhones. That’s astronomical. Hence why my newsletters are very simply designed and they work great on iPhones.
How to Create a Mobile Experience
A WordPress blog is the easiest to get mobilized. I like the WP Touch plug-in for WordPress to create a mobile-friendly version. Lots of great features and customization you can do.
But don’t let this happen to you! When I first moved to WP Touch sales decreased! Why? Because I use a right sidebar to display my sales material and that sidebar was stripped from the mobile version. Also because my homepage navigation relied heavily on images, which were also removed.
I considered switching to a new theme, but need some time to adequately plan a major change like that. In the meantime, I thought of a different approach. WP Touch has an option to choose which homepage you want mobile users to see first. I recommend setting up a hidden page (not linked from your navigation) that is mobile friendly. It should look and act similar to a splash page, with a couple big images, a section about you, clear contact information, and large buttons or links to your key pages. Visit http://photographywebmarketing.com from your mobile and see my custom landing page.
Plugin considerations… Insure images stay visible without the user having to tap/click (mobile version needs to show photos on your homepage). Test your site on multiple devices after installing the plugin to make sure your sales information and photos are still easy to find. Opt for a hidden page on your website that you build just for mobile, and set the plugin default to point to that page.
Without using a plugin (or in addition to), I did the following for users who see the full version of my site but still on a phone or tablet.
- Replaced small links with large buttons on my site so mobile users could click them more easily
- Increased font size
- Moved critical sales information to the top of the page
- Compressed all images to speed up load time
These are easy updates you can make to any webpage to make it more mobile-friendly.
More on Speed
Looking through the Google Blog today I found a post about Global Site Speed that was particularly relevant. Average page load time for mobile was 50% more than desktop.
Now you can see proof that phones delay load time, and see where your site falls in comparison to the average.
Tips for mobile design
If you’re 100% Flash-based, be prepared to miss all the iPhone and iPad users which is about 50% of the market. That’s where a splash page comes in handy. Consider these items when designing the splash page (or any page for that matter):
- Big buttons
- Clear contact information
- Narrow templates
- Give users a link to the full site
- Compress images
- Avoid flyouts in navigation
- SHORT forms
- Avoid automatic popups, fullscreen, music etc
- Cross platform (works on Apple, Android, and Windows environments)
- Consider different screen sizes (smartphone, tablet)
I look forward to seeing you grow your business by joining the mobile revolution.
Photo credit: Rachel Brenke