As more consumers use their smartphones and other mobile devices to search for places to eat and shop, small businesses without a mobile version of their website could be losing potential customers and revenue.
Just having a website isn’t enough, said Alex Kutsishin, chief executive of FiddleFly, which helps companies tweak their websites for the mobile Internet. “Searching a website that’s not optimized for mobile is like having to stop and pull out cash in the E-ZPass line,” said Kutsishin. “It’s all about convenience right now.”
According to a mobile Internet report issued by Morgan Stanley, more users will connect to the Internet from mobile devices than desktop PCs within five years. As the popularity of mobile search continues to grow, Kutsishin predicts Internet search providers like Google (GOOG) and Yahoo (YHOO) will rank websites without a mobile site lower in search queries. The search engines are going to “make sure they feed customers the most credible information on the most convenient platform, which is why being mobile is important,” says Kutsishin.
Because they are viewed on much smaller screens, mobile websites need to designed specifically for use with the “mobile thumb.” That means people need to be able to reach any part of the mobile website with their thumb while holding the phone in one hand.
“A sign that it’s a good mobile site is if you don’t have to turn the phone sideways or zoom in,” said Kutsishin. He also advised the buttons on a mobile site be bigger, the fonts larger and zooming shouldn’t be necessary to click on a link or feature. The site also has to be quick to upload information, images and videos—users need to be able to find the most important information as fast as possible.
FiddleFly has created a platform that it claims can get a mobile site up and running in as little as five to seven minutes. Users are provided blank design layouts that can be used to copy and paste information from an existing website and the program then automatically lays the information out in a mobile- friendly manner.
Currently FiddleFly is selling the program to marketing firms, web designers and graphics designers, who in turn offer the service to clients. The company plans to roll out a small business version by the end of the year. Customers pay $295 a year for a license and then pay per site, per month at prices starting at $9 a month. The small business version will cost around $500 a year, and includes the hosting of the mobile Website.
When FiddleFly first launched the platform, it went after the small business market instead of going the affiliate route, but Kutsishin said the company had little success because despite the increase in mobile search, small business owner still don’t think they need a mobile optimized website.
“Small businesses are not ready to embrace it. The education is still so low,” said Kutsishin, noting that until a small business owner searches a website made specifically for the mobile Web it won’t get it.