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THE HERALD BUSINESS JOURNAL    EVERETT, WASHINGTON

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Laura Christianson

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Jim Davis, Editor
jdavis@heraldnet.com
Published: Tuesday, January 22, 2013

How you can create a thumb-friendly website

What's the first thing you do every morning before you get out of bed?

If you answered, “Check my cell phone,” join the crowd. It's estimated that as many as 91 percent of mobile users keep their phone within three feet at all times.

And with the burgeoning popularity of tablets, people are accessing the web more often from portable devices than they are from desktop computers. This trend carries huge implications for the way businesses attract customers. Your company's website must be thumb-friendly — easily accessible to consumers who are thumbing their way around a smartphone or using a touchscreen tablet.

Consumers conduct the same activities on mobile devices as they do on a desktop computer. They browse the web, check email, access social networks and shop online. The key difference is that, on a mobile device, they're exploring the web while they're watching TV, commuting to work on public transit, shopping, sitting in a waiting room or mingling at parties.

Here are some telling statistics about the mobile market's growth surge:

• Thirty-six percent of all email opens are via a smartphone. Smartphone sales are predicted to increase 27 percent in 2013, which means that the percentage of people who access email through their phone will continue to spiral upward.

• Nearly 15 percent of web searches are from a mobile device.

• There are 56 million tablet users in the U.S., comprising nearly one-quarter of all U.S. internet users. This figure is predicted to rise to 90 million by 2014.

• Sixty percent of tablet users have incomes over $75,000 per year.

The challenge many businesses face is that their websites were designed to be viewed on desktop or laptop computers. Visit your company's website using a smartphone. Do you have to repeatedly pinch, zoom and scroll to access the site's features? Frustrating, isn't it?

It's no wonder that more than 60 percent of customers who visit a mobile-unfriendly site will likely visit a competitor's site.

There are several ways create a mobile-friendly website. This year, you're going to be hearing a lot about “responsive web design” (RWD), a flexible design method that senses the type of device a site is being viewed on and dynamically resizes images and layout to fit the device's screen. While you can expect to pay more to have a responsive website developed, you won't need a separate mobile site.

Whether you pursue responsive web design, create a mobile-friendly version of your existing site or add an online tool designed to mobilize your site, you'll want to plan how to make your site thumb-friendly.

Use intuitive navigation. Visitors must be able to access key pages on your site in one or two clicks. If you're creating a separate, small-screen version of your website, decide which pages from your desktop site are most critical, and what action you want visitors to take. Mobile sites usually include five-to-seven large buttons, with enough padding between buttons for clumsy thumbs to easily click the correct tab.

Use scannable content. Mobile users want information fast, so limit text to a few key phrases that visitors can take action on, and place one or two attention-grabbing images on each page. Mobile users detest filling out forms, so keep form fields succinct.

Prominently include key information: major services and products, location(s) and map, business hours and click-to-call phone numbers.

Test your site on multiple devices and browsers to ensure that it functions well on all of them.

Remember: The smaller the screen, the simpler the design.

Laura Christianson owns Blogging Bistro (bloggingbistro.com), a Snohomish-based company that specializes in custom website creation, content writing and social media marketing. Contact her at 425-244-4242 or laura@bloggingbistro.com.