Mobile “Friendly” Site or Mobile Site – What’s the Difference?

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This post originally appeared on Dbusiness.com.

In the last two years, mobile traffic has increased 162.73% globally. Such a rapid increase could indicate mobile Internet access will overtake desktop Internet traffic by the year 2014.

To put this number into perspective, between the years 2000 and 2011, worldwide Internet use grew 528.1%, meaning the growth rate for Internet usage over 11 years was 48% compared to mobile Internet use growth of a whopping 81% in merely two years.

So why the big growth? With many people accessing the Internet to view websites, a shift in what information people are accessing and how they are accessing it has changed. A typical desktop version of a website may contain various pages with history, about us, services, whitepapers and other company information. A person browsing “on-the-go” will only need to obtain specific information due to the limited time and space they have.

While many sites may have some integrated elements or are entirely built in Flash, mobile friendly sites are code based. Condensing information and designing layouts to make mobile viewing easy encourages return mobile visits.

How do you distinguish between a mobile “friendly” site and a mobile website? The first indicates that a desktop version, with full content, is being displayed, with enhancements for mobile viewing. These enhancements include initiating a call by simply touching a phone number or shrinking the size of the content to be contained by either horizontal or vertical phone formats.

The term mobile website refers to a condensed version of the site with user interface designed directly for a mobile platform. Such sites usually contain basic information, reduced visual design aspects and condensed layouts.

For example, a business’s mobile site may contain only information on its hours, ordering and contact information, the address, location, or directions – just the necessities. This version of the site is separate from its desktop version and runs quickly on a phone or tablet. These sites also need to include the ability for “touch” information because touch screens are now the normal way to interface with websites on a mobile platform.

Deciding which option to implement for your own site will depend on your end user. Is your key demographic constantly on the go and accessing your website via mobile? If the majority of viewers will be mobile, then you should consider doing a full mobile site in lieu of giving your website just a friendly “touch.”

On the flip side, if you know the bulk of your views are being pulled from desktops, make sure to have your site updated to be mobile friendly. If you currently have Google Analytics installed on your site (and let’s be honest, you better!), you can drill down where your visitors are coming from and see exactly how many come from mobile and Internet browsers.

How is your company’s website built? Mobile friendly, or a totally separate mobile site? Which do you prefer?

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