Anyone following me for a while will know one of my common themes is ensuring your website is ready for the mobile invasion. Just because the majority of your current visitors are still using traditional platforms doesn’t mean that will remain the status quo for very long.
Given that background, I thought it might be good to start exploring some of the practical steps involved to prepare for this revolution.
Today’s topic: reliance on external file formats such as PDF and .doc to incorporate content into your website.
For some time, desktop and notebook browsers have incorporate tools that have enabled these external documents to be presented inside the browser. There may have been some accessibility issues with this approach but for the majority of visitors this integration has been seamless.
Unfortunately, only the very latest of the current crop of mobile browsers support that sort of integration. Those that do probably open a new tab, a method that has it own usability issues on the little screen. For many visitors using a mobile device their only option is to download the file and then display it using a separate app - assuming of course that they have a suitable app available.
“No biggie” may be your first response, but let’s try looking at it in context. Put yourself in the situation of travelling home on public transport and you decide it’s Chinese takeaway for dinner tonight. You’re new to the area so you need to find a restaurant and make a choice. You pull out your trusty Android or iPhone and start searching. You recognise a name of a restaurant recommended to you and visit the website. Oh no! They insist on Flash (as shown in the image). Scrub that one. Let’s try the next one.
This one is not been optimised for mobile but it does load and you can manage to navigate the site. Unfortunately you discover the menu is only available in PDF format. You have no choice but to download the file … waiting, waiting, waiting … finally it’s on your phone. Now you have to leave the browser, find the PDF viewer, navigate to the directory where the downloaded file is stored and open it. You make the final choice and go looking for the phone number. It’s in the PDF file but it’s not clickable.
You can either commit the phone number to your memory (even 8 digits can be a struggle for some of us) or go back to the browser and hope the phone number is clickable.
Phone call made, order given, taste buds tingling … you look up and recognise that you’ve passed your stop. If only the process was a little smoother you might have been on time for dinner. Will you have fond memories of your dealings with this restaurant? The food needs to be spectacular and the service exemplary to offset the struggle so far.
So what could the restaurant do to improve this situation? One simple option is to show the menu in the page (built using HTML) and provide a PDF version for those who would like it.
The recommendation from this first instalment is to re-think the way your visitors might need to interact with your website. Even if you are not yet ready to build a mobile friendly version of your website, you can incorporate some friendlier methods into the current structure, such as not relying on external files to convey critical content.
- Do You Need a Mobile Website? (flyteblog.com)