A huge percentage of your audience—whether prospective clients, your referral network or prospective employees—now view your firm website via a smartphone screen. In fact, by 2013, mobile web usage will be more common than any other medium. That means you and your firm better look great on the Internet, whether viewed on a large screen or small.
Don’t Worry, You’ve Got Options
Before you start thinking about a new site or redesign, understand that mobile-friendly websites and mobile optimized websites are two very different things. As the mobile generation continues to grow, understanding both could mean the difference between winning and losing a prospective client.
- Mobile-Friendly Website. A mobile-friendly website is an HTML-based website that doesn’t contain Flash. At the very least, this type of website is recommended. It means that a website is viewable on a smartphone, but it is not optimized for a smartphone. The viewer has to pinch-to-zoom, scroll left, right, up, down and figure out how the site “works” on a smartphone. It’s sort of like looking at your regular website through a small window.
- Mobile Optimized Websites. A mobile optimized website (mobi) allows for the best viewing of your website on a smartphone. It is a scaled down version of your website that is designed specifically for your mobile phone, not the desktop. Unlike a mobile-friendly website, you do not have to pinch, zoom or scroll left or right. It is designed for efficiency, speed and with the visitor in mind. Take a look at www.babcockpartners.com on your smartphone. This site is designed specifically for a handheld (if you simply click on the link from your computer, it will only take you to their regular website, you’ll need to re-enter it into your handheld’s browser).
- A Website with Flash. Flash-based websites do not fall into either of these categories, mobile-friendly or mobile optimized. If your website contains flash, it just will not transition onto a smartphone. (Yet another reason to redesign your website.) Perhaps someday there will be a solution to the Flash compatability issue, but right now we must plan, design and develop websites with no Flash in mind so that they function on the small screen.
Is an App the Answer to Capturing the Smartphone Audience?
When I download an app to my smartphone I have done two things. First, I made a commitment to downloading an app (which I may only use once). Second, I “invited” that program to take up space and “live” on my phone. I don’t know about you, but I hope I don’t need the kind of access to a law firm that letting it live on my smartphone implies. Kevin O’Keefe sums it up perfectly in his blog post on why your law firm should forget about building an iPhone app: “Unless it serves a specific purpose, your app will unlikely be used.” An app that deals with personal injury issues may not be a bad thing, since it could include a useful checklist of what to do when you have a car accident—taking pictures of the damage, getting details on the people involved in the accident, and pointing where to go for legal help. However, getting someone to find your app at the point in time it’s needed and take these steps is highly unlikely if not marketed or promoted correctly. Do your research before you leap into app development.
In the past, optimizing your website for smartphones was just an option—cool, but not critical. Now, to just remain visible and relevant, you’ve got to get it done.
Jeffrey Morgan has more than 25 years of experience working with professional service firms on branding, marketing communications, business development and website strategy. He is a Principal with Moiré Marketing Partners, a strategic branding and communications agency specializing in the success of professional service firms.