"Smartphone with Application" By GAO Montpellier (GAO Montpellier) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsWhether you check the news on your smartphone first thing in the morning or you’d rather read the phone book than attend to anything on such a tiny screen, there’s one thing you’ve got to keep in mind – potential readers are looking at your site on mobile even if you’re not.  In the same way that your website needs to be accessible to many different browsers, making a mobile version of your website available is an essential component of web design in today’s wireless world.

Don’t worry – even if you’ve never touched an iPad, you can design for a mobile device without changing the appearance of your existing website. And you don’t need a smartphone to see how it looks on different models of phones, either.  But what makes a great mobile website?

  • It’s not just your website, smaller. It’s purposefully designed for the small screen.
  • It’s simple, with essential information prioritized, smaller graphics and large buttons for people with fingers less dexterous than a fleetly texting tween’s.
  • It uses features that mobile phones can handle. Features for browsers such as Flash and mouse-hovering applications don’t show up on mobile sites, and can prevent your site from loading altogether.
  • It takes advantage of the natural capabilities of mobile phones.  Menus are vertical, not horizontal. If you have a phone number, you can click to call. It’s swipe-able (also called ‘drag-screen’ by some) and doesn’t require the mobile viewer to ‘pinch and squint’ all over the page.

Making websites mobile-friendly is a task that professional web-developers are scratching their heads over – lucky for a non-professional, there are tools available for you to use that are also free (who doesn’t love free?).

Go Mobile with GoMo

GoMo is a Google tool that is currently offering a free year of professional mobile optimization. Not only can you create your mobile website through them, but you can also test how your website will appear on mobile devices right from your browser.

"Android Smartphone" By Pacnet2012 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

GoMo is very easy to use and gives you a polished, customizable final product. This is the program that Swenson Book Development, LLC, is currently using; our team is a mix of mobile junkies and cellphone cynics, and now our site is caters beautifully to both – by smartphone or laptop.

The only moderately scary part of GoMo is inserting the javascript application into your website’s code. It sounds scary, right? But I only say this because, in my experience, the moment we, as authors, see something that looks vaguely like an algebraic equation, our eyes glaze over. The jumbled mix of symbols that GoMo generates is Javascript, a responsive coding language that is used for interactive material on a website. Javascript detects browser screen size and mobile access, redirecting small mobile browsers from your website to a customized mobile page. Luckily, one of the perks of GoMo is it’s incredible customer support and easily understood technical instructions. If their tutorial is not complete enough for you, good tech support is available.

Go Mobile with Verve and WordPress.

If you’re using WordPress, try the fantastic Verve Mobile plugin.  It’s a free plugin available to all WordPress users created by the leading mobile publishing platform. The installation is as simple as few clicks, plus there is forum help and a tutorial if you get stuck.

Not only is Verve Mobile free and a breeze to install, but it comes with customizable themes to control your mobile site appearance and provides basic mobile analytics. You can blog and be on the cutting edge of technology, all from the same site.

Still not convinced mobile is for you?

Even though it’s as easy as a few clicks and free as the air you breathe, are you still not sure if your site should go mobile? Here’s some statistics to try to sway you:

  • There were an estimated 472 million smartphones sold worldwide in 2011.
  • By 2015, that number is estimated to rise to 982 million
  • 6.95% of all browsing was done on mobile last year.
  • The average smartphone user visits 24 distinct mobile websites a day.
  • There were 10.3 million tablet computer users in 2010, and that number is growing daily.

Going mobile is free and simple to implement; there is no reason to hide your site from the mobile world because of technical difficulties. And if you are still not convinced, consider this motivating factor: it’s an inevitable step for your online presence. Remember how two decades ago very few people had e-mail? But now, not having e-mail renders one a veritable dinosaur.

Time for your author website to evolve. And if anyone asks, you can tell ’em it’s “for the love of books!”

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