Does Your Business Work for Mobile Users? Three Design Tips

A recent post on Business Week "The Tech Beat" confirms my casual observation that "Wi-Fi Hotspot Use Shifts from Laptops to Handhelds" 

More people are accessing Wi-Fi hotspots at cafes and airports via handheld devices, according to a new study from In-Stat. While, last year, devices like smartphones accounted for 20% of total connects to Wi-Fi hotspots, in 2009 that number jumped to 35%. And by 2011, smartphones should account for half of hotspot connects — and challenge laptops’ dominance of Wi-Fi hotspots, In-Stat estimates. more

For the last month I've been "on the road" and away from my desktop. I've been almost totally reliant on my iPhone for all my online activities. I can attest to the fact that many businesses will need to retool their web presence to accommodate the new flood of smartphone / handheld users. 

My web design skills topped out with FrontPage '98 so I'm in no position to offer design specifics. But here's a few end user observations based on my smartphone-only month.

Login  1. Internet cafes, keep your wifi login simple. I'm not applying for a mortgage – I just want to use your wifi connection. My favorite login is at Portland Oregon's Ace Hotel. (iPhone screenshot at left) A simple button you "press." It "toggles in" and you are online. No disclaimer to read / agree.

2. Businesses, pay your web designer a few extra bucks and have her develop a second mobile version of your website. Check out the Amazon mobile web version on a smartphone – fast, functional and fully integrated with typical Amazon account functions.

3. Businesses, if you don't develop a mobile version of your site, at least kill off your graphic – intensive splash page. I'm surprised at the number of businesses that have a start page that isn't even visible on my iPhone. No links to click on  - no way into your site from my phone. You own a restaurant. I'm in town looking for a place to eat. Did you think I'd bring my desktop? Your site doesn't even talk nice to Yelp! 

OK – I'm done ranting. Happy new year to all my readers.

Technical note:  I broke down and dragged my laptop to a Portland cafe to post this. Their wifi login disclaimer runs – 5 pages, 22 paragraphs, 1379 words and has a 16 pixel "I agree button" buried at the bottom of the page. 'Nuff said.

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