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Mobile Web Development Best Done in Stages

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Mobile web developmentThe simplest and least risky path to building a mobile Web site is by doing it in stages, especially for small and mid-sized companies that have limited budgets and resources.

A conservative approach is a way of gaining insights about what kind of mobile site works best with customers and then making changes to enhance the experience.

The staged approach also means more limited promotion and a smart approach to managing the expectations of clients.

In contrast, imagine the launch of a famous alternative — HealthCare.gov, the Affordable Care Act Web site where people sign up for health insurance.

In that case, the ambitions on the part of the government and the expectations on the part of the public were exceptionally high. It was a big swing and a big miss.

Shooting that high is a common mistake for anyone other than the exceptionally talented or exceptionally brave.

For anyone interested in a careful approach, an incremental rollout of mobile Web might be done in four stages.

Stage 1: A Small, Optional Product

I
n this stage, a mobile visitor to a Web site who goes to the regular home page, for example, will be presented with a link or ad offering a chance to click and enter into the mobile version rather than the desktop version.

Desktop visitors will not see those links or ads because they are triggered by site code that identifies the platform of the visitor and whether it is mobile or desktop.

Mobile visitors will take one of three steps. Some of them will not see the link or ads at all. Some will see them and choose not to click on them. A small number will actually click.

Sites using this approach with 25 percent of total traffic in mobile smartphones (not tablets) might see only a total of 1 percent going to the mobile product.

Why do a product for the sake of only 1 percent? It is a way of testing a beta version of a new mobile product, seeing what works and changing what doesn’t.

Stage 2: Aggressive Promotion of an Optional Product

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variation of Stage 1 is presenting the mobile visitor immediately with a unique home page where they can choose to enter the desktop version or the mobile version.

The advantage here is that every mobile visitor will clearly be made aware of the mobile product. There won’t be any visitors who overlook links or ads.

Stage 2 results in more mobile visitors and makes sense for a site ready to pursue more mobile audience and ad revenue.

One downside to this approach is the temptation of mobile visitors to switch back and forth between the two products. Coding will need to be adjusted so that they don’t end up in a loop of clicking back into the desktop version and being immediately rerouted back to the introductory page.

Stage 3: Nothing but Mobile Web

T

he most aggressive product for people visiting a Web site with a smartphone is where they are automatically sent to the mobile product.

“Sites that take this step have to be prepared for a significant impact on core site traffic and ad inventory.”

Obviously, this approach will product the maximum possible visitors to the mobile product and create the maximum amount of mobile ad inventory and revenue.

Sites that take this step have to be prepared for a significant impact on core site traffic and ad inventory.

A robust mobile product must be able to attract more mobile visitors, repeat visitors and pages per visit than mobile traffic to a desktop product where mobile visitors always consume fewer pages, click on fewer ads and return less often than desktop visitors.

Stage 4: The Mobile App

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mobile app for Web content sites is worth pursuing when the mobile product is robust and generating strong user response.

Unlike apps that emphasize functionality and download large files in a phone, a content app is a simple way of attracting repeat visitors because of the presence of the icon on the mobile phone.

For smaller sites, content apps are among the simplest to develop because they often emphasize links to mobile Web pages and do not require advanced programming to develop native functionality.

Numerous sites offer software to develop simple apps. In some cases, they are even available for free.

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