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Go Mobile Today!

  |  November 7, 2011   |  Comments

The mobile web has clearly reached critical mass. So why are so many of us behind in mobilizing our sites?

Not to darken your Monday, but chances are if you're reading this, you're probably already behind the times.

But don't worry: so are 70 percent of all businesses with websites, according to a new study from Econsultancy and RedEye. Their report found that despite the rapid increase in smartphone usage, only around 25 percent of companies have bothered to create a mobile smartphone version of their sites and only 13 percent have created sites specifically for tablets.

In the immortal words of Homer Simpson, "Doh!"

We've gone past the point where having a mobile site is an option for businesses. Currently, over 90 percent of people in the U.S. have mobile phones and estimates of smartphone users generally run between 70 and 80 million people in the U.S. It's even more important if you're trying to reach those oh-so-valuable 18 to 34 year olds: 42 percent of smartphone owners fit this age bracket. Looking at it another way, fully 62 percent of mobile users aged 25 to 34 own a smartphone. And, as I reported in my last column, 40 percent of smartphone and tablet users break them out when they're watching TV.

The mobile web has clearly reached critical mass. So why are so many of us behind in mobilizing our sites?

I haven't been able to find any research on the topic, but my gut tells me that what I've been hearing from my clients isn't all that unusual…or surprising. Budgets are tight. Time's even tighter. Expertise in the mobile space is hard to come by. Most of us have enough to do dealing with social media and other expanding marketing channels that we haven't had the bandwidth to even think about mobile, especially if you're not working for a major consumer brand. Sure, the big guys in the CPG world are all over our phones, but for the rest of us…well, we'll get around to it one of these days. If we can afford it.

But mobilizing your site doesn't have to be expensive, time consuming, or technically difficult. Yes, creating a mobile app isn't a walk in the park, but a number of new services out there make jumping on the mobile bandwagon easier than ever.

Pressly is one of the more promising contenders in the mobilization space. This free service (currently in beta) automatically converts your website into a tablet-friendly site optimized for touch interfaces. While it's not currently open to the public yet, it claims that its free service will automatically convert your site (including your RSS and Twitter feeds) into an HTML5 site. Unfortunately, the free version includes ads, though it remains to be seen what the final solution will look like after it's released.

If you're really operating on the cheap, Google's free mobilization service might be a way to get your feet wet in the mobile space. Just type in your URL and your site is basically stripped of anything that won't work well on a mobile device. The results aren't exactly pretty, but if you're looking for a way to offer your site on the mobile web for cheap, it's one option you should consider.

For businesses looking for a more powerful, flexible, and attractive solution, MoFuse offers an extremely comprehensive solution through its web-based interface. Not only can you automatically transform your website into a mobile site using MoFuse, but you can also take advantage of additional mobile features such as a mobile form builder, store locator (that uses either Zip codes or the phone's GPS), Google Maps integration, Google Checkout, and mobile analytics. MoFuse operates on a subscription basis, with prices running from $7.95 a month for the basic version up to $199 per month for the "ultimate" package that includes all MoFuse features.

If you're interested in creating a mobile community site, Winksite offers a quick and easy way to get up and running on the mobile web in minutes. It's a bit more limited than some of the other solutions out there and doesn't convert your existing site, but its free and offers community features the others don't.

Another tool for those who are starting from scratch is Zinadoo, a web-based service that allows you to create your own mobile website using pre-packaged templates or your own custom design. The service runs between 75 euros for a site that runs their ads or 100 euros for an ad-free site. Packages include goodies like widgets that can be used to promote your site, SMS and email marketing tools, search engine optimization, and even video.

MobiSiteGalore is another alternative if you want to jump into mobile with a separate mobile site (rather than "mobilizing" your existing site). Those who just want a quick-and-easy mobile presence (three pages or less) can try it out for free, while those needing a much more robust solution can go with the company's "Unlimited Page Pack" option for just $225/year (including unlimited hosting and online support). It's got an impressive set of features that include widgets for search, click-to-call, social sharing, e-commerce, and the ability to incorporate Google AdSense ads into your site. You can even use its built-in mobile emulator to test your site privately before going live on the mobile web.

If your site runs WordPress, WPtouch Pro is a WordPress plug-in that adds "app-like" mobile interface features via themes for both smartphones and tablets. Rather than some other solutions that simply create a mobile site by sucking site content via RSS feeds, WPtouch Pro creates an entirely separate WordPress theme for your site that comes up automatically when users access your site via their mobile device. It's an impressive solution for those already running a WordPress site who want to "mobilize it" in a hurry and want it to look good, too.

If you want to go all-out with your mobile site, check out Mobify, a high-powered mobile website creation, hosting, and publishing system used by brands such as Wired, Threadless, and Condé Nast. It's a bit pricier than other solutions I've mentioned (up to $1,000 per month for the high-powered Studio Publisher option used by the likes of Condé Nast and IDG), but you can try out the Basic Studio version for free as long as you don't mind a small link back to Mobify in the footer of your site.

Finally, if you're looking to learn more about going mobile, be sure to check out Google's "GoMo" initiative to learn how to get your site on the mobile web. The site provides some good basic information about going mobile, allows you to test the mobile readiness of your existing site, and even hooks you up with its network of mobile developers.

With all these options (and more coming online all the time), there's no excuse to be part of the web-bound 70 percent anymore! Go get mobile today.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sean Carton

Sean Carton has recently been appointed to develop the Center for Digital Communication, Commerce, and Culture at the University of Baltimore and is chief creative officer at idfive in Baltimore. He was formerly the dean of Philadelphia University's School of Design + Media and chief experience officer at Carton Donofrio Partners, Inc.

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