Tomorrow's launch of the iPhone 3GS and last week's launch of the PalmPre focused my attention on the way people are doing more search and research on products and services while on the go. US consumers are the top group in the world for mobile browsing and spending according to mobile development house Bango, exceeding UK customers. (Not surprisingly, Bango offers tools that allow companies to track mobile website usage.) Site LocalMobileSearch.net notes that 13-14% of US consumers have smartphones, but cites survey data pointing towards 25% penetration in the next few years. So, people with SmartPhones soon could be one out of every four of your customers.
If you are an early adopter type and have one of these smart phones, likely you've used it to find a restaurant, coffee bar, the nearest auto mechanic, or some other relevant search. Now, think about your own customers — it won't be long before they're looking for your business — and not just coffee houses. Much of what is now done on the desktop will be easy to do on the go.
With web browsing functionality becoming more popular in "regular" mobile phones it won't be long before someone will ask why your website isn't usable (or visible) on their phone. Or maybe they won't ask - they'll just use your competitor's mobile site instead.
Don't fear, though. There are some simple tools out there to help convert your site to a view that mobile devices can see and deal with properly. One solution is Mobify - Their free version allows your site to appear on someone's phone browser in a different view. This shows the user what they need to see, and avoids heavy graphics or widgets that wouldn't show well on mobile anyway. More expensive versions offer more extensive feature sets, including analytics. If you use Wordpress' self-hosted version the Mobilepress plugin allows your site to be viewed on a number of phone browsers. This has fewer features, but you can load it yourself and forget it.
There are also other tools to help and I'll be covering them in future columns. Has your business website been optimized to appear on a mobile browser? How? Let us know in the comments.