So you’ve taken the big technological leap forward and developed a website for your product or organization, it looks good and it appears customers are visiting it, that should be enough right? Unfortunately it’s not. Many websites of local businesses and organizations in Ghana suffer from a major design flaw.
Simply put, many of these websites usually load very slowly or are troublesome to navigate on mobile devices. In tech lingo: ‘they render poorly on mobile browsers’. Why is this a problem?
1. Internet Access and Usage is Changing
Despite Ghana’s relatively low Internet penetration statistics the true story of Internet access in Ghana lies in mobile device popularity and usage. The relative expense of traditional PCs and laptops and formal broadband connections means that most Ghanaians, and most in developing countries, regularly access the Internet not over traditional PCs but using their mobile devices. This is an international trend as the popularity of mobile devices increases and their usage rates rise above that of traditional PCs. Facebook recently revealed that 33% of its site traffic is from mobile devices, Twitter’s mobile traffic accounts for 55% of overall site traffic. The simple fact is more people are going to access your website via mobile than with a regular PC browser. Expect it, and optimize for it.
2. Web Pages don’t automatically render well on mobile devices.
This might seem strange if you experience going to a website like Facebook by typing the URL www.facebook.com into your mobile browser and ending up on a very nicely designed Facebook page. However take a closer look at the browser URL you are sent to. You’ll notice that on a mobile device you are automatically redirected from www.facebook.com to m.facebook.com. This second URL is the address of a distinct, mobile optimized version of Facebook. If you were to somehow access the PC web browser version of Facebook on your phone you’d find it very difficult to use on your mobile device, with long load times and lots of scrolling around to see things. This is the case with most websites as with smaller screens and different capabilities to web browsers, most mobile browsers of older ‘feature’ phones, which only support WAP, cannot accurately render an ordinary web page. Newer smartphones which support HTML5 rendering may be able to avoid this problem. Web developers thus need to develop mobile versions of their websites to cater to smartphone and feature phone owners to allow them to consume web content easily on their devices.
Okay, so we can agree that mobile web development is necessary if you really want to adequately reach all potential web users.
However, is it difficult?
The answer to this is a pleasant no. For the small business that cannot afford to put resources into independent mobile website development there are many free and paid services available that can help you set up a mobile version of your website in minutes.
Services such as Wirenode (used by companies such as Nokia, Reebok, Ford, Nivea and Vodafone), Mobify and Onbile give you great, user-friendly editors that will allow you to quickly format and create a mobile version of your website in minutes. They’ll then provide you with the necessary script to add to your website to automatically redirect mobile users to the mobile version of your site.
If you use the WordPress publishing platform on your website, a perfect option would be the MobilePress plugin which will render your website on mobile platforms. If you’re looking to develop specific iPhone/iPod Touch apps, iWebKit is a very popular option that can even be used by those without extensive coding knowledge.
As you can see, mobile website development is not only a necessity, considering our current and projected internet usage, it’s relatively easy. The operators of GhanaWeb, for example, must be commended for having implemented mobile web optimization excellently and having a simple, clean mobile website (alongside the ordinary web page) where we can read the local news. I only hope that more of our businesses and web developers will follow suit and make it easier for ordinary Ghanaians, accessing the web on their mobile phones, to consume their web content.
Executive, Product Evangelism and Social Media Relations
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