SEMA News—January 2013
By Joe Dysart
Making Sure Your Mobile Website Looks Good on All Devices
New research from Pew Internet Research and others indicates that the United States is still in a frenzy over all things mobile—and that you’re losing money if your mobile website is not rendering properly on all devices. It’s not enough to simply have a mobile-optimized website these days. Businesses must also verify that their mobile sites look good on as many mobile devices as possible.
One of the easiest reads on the current level of mobile fanaticism emerged in September 2012, when Apple booked two million units sold in pre-orders for its iPhone 5 in 24 hours.
“iPhone 5 pre-orders shattered the previous record held by iPhone 4S,” said Philip Schiller, a senior vice president at Apple. Schiller added that the iPhone 5 essentially doubled the record held by the previous generations.
“[The] smartphone is an always-on companion tool that will surpass the usage of desktop computers within the next few years,” said Jacques Beaudoin, Mobile Websites Design founder. “This is why it is so important for your online business desktop website to be mobile-friendly.”
Equally eyebrow-raising stats were released in September by Pew, which found that tablet penetration in the United States nearly doubled over the Christmas gift-giving season in 2011 from 10% to 19%. Moreover, the combined penetration of tablets and e-book readers in the country (e-book readers can often be used to surf the web) is now 29%.
Pew also found that 66% of those aged 18 to 29 now own smartphones. Plus, the researcher found that 17% of all cell-phone users now rely on their cell phones to do most of their online browsing.
“We see the rapid rise in mobile devices as an important long-term trend,” said Stephen Antisdel, manager at Precept Partners, a web-design firm. “Companies that ignore smartphones and tablets may be doing so at their peril.”
Indeed, web browsing by cell phone is especially prevalent among African Americans, 51% of whom turn most often to their cell phones to browse and interact online, according to Pew. And 42% of Latinos have the same preference.
Of course, desktop users still represent a major force in web computing. Pew found that 58% of Americans have desktop computers, and 61% own laptops.
For many of these more-traditional computer users—who often cruise the web with twin 23-in. monitors and the “luxury” of fullsize keyboards—the lure of a PC the size of a deck of cards and sporting a keyboard best operated by two thumbs is a bit puzzling.
But Pew’s study found that cell phones are a major hit with other users because the units are always within arm’s reach—no matter where they go. Indeed, it’s tough to find an affluent young American teen girl who does not have a cell phone fused to her hand at any given time. And Pew also found that for 10% of “mostly cell” surfers, the cell phone is simply their only option for connecting to the Internet.
Fortunately, there are a number of quick and easy tools businesses can use to ensure that their mobile-optimized websites—or their second websites created especially for mobile users—are offering quality visual experiences on as many mobile devices as possible. Here are a few:
General Overview: For a great overall analysis of the mobile-friendliness of your site, check out the W3C mobileOK Checker. This is a page on the web where you can type in any URL and get a report back on any mobile trouble spots associated with your site. The analysis is based on the Mobile Web Best Practices specification, which was created by W3C, a highly respected, worldwide web-standards consortium. You’ll get a general feel for the mobile-friendliness of your site here. But you’ll need additional tools to see how your site renders on specific devices.
Quick iPhone Test: If you’re just looking for quick feedback on how your site renders on the iPhone, check out Test iPhone (). It’s an easy way to see how your site looks on one of the world’s most popular smartphones.
Gomez Cross-Device Compatibility Test: Type in a mobile URL here, and you’ll get a look at how the page renders on four of the most popular mobile devices in the world—one from Android, two running the Apple iOS and one running Blackberry’s mobile operating system. Gomez offers this free tool to introduce users to its paid services.
Perfecto Mobile’s Handset Cloud Test: Perfecto’s tool starts at $15 per hour and allows you to test your set on a wide variety of devices. Unlike many other tools, you’ll also be able to use Perfecto to actually see how interactions on your mobile website play out on various simulated devices. For example, you can interact with text and numbers and simulate events such as “Call Me” or “SMS Me”—features that you may have programmed into your mobile site.
CrossBrowserTesting.com’s Browser Compatibility Test: This is an extremely comprehensive mobile device tester that’s endorsed by heavy hitters in many industries. It starts at $29.99 a month and tests simulated environments in mobile, desktop and laptop computing.
Multi-Browser Viewer (MBV): Another heavily endorsed tester, MBV offers testing on 44 different types of browsers, including five mobile browsers or simulators, at $139.95 per year. It also includes special viewing for the iPhone and iPad, and it enables you to do side-by-side comparisons of your website on different simulated browsers.
Usability Science’s Third-Party Usability Testing: Usability Science takes a different approach to mobile testing by employing live people to put your mobile site through its paces on as many devices as you desire, with negotiable pricing.