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Separate Mobile Site
One of the reasons a separate mobile site can be problematic is that most non-mobile optimized sites have a lot of content. When you have a lot of space, you tend to use it and mobile sites have to be streamlined. Trying to decide what to leave out and what to include can be difficult since you are just guessing what parts of your site content are the ones your mobile users are looking for. Pew and Online Research recent studies state that 25% of people in the U.S. using their smartphone to browse the web are rarely using any other device for web access. What do you want to show them? In addition, there may be feature phone users who access your site, though the experience is probably not a great one. Should you include them in your planning? Maybe, especially if you're not based in the U.S., where smartphone usage is somewhat higher.
Another problem is, how do you deal with mobile users who come to your regular site and must be re-directed to the mobile site? There are no hard and fast ways of separating the smart phone users from the tablets, desktops, and laptops, so what criteria do you use to define a user coming into your site as a mobile user and then how would you redirect them?
Then there's the maintenance issue - two sites to maintain are twice the fun and twice the expense.
If a separate mobile site is not the answer, then is changing your website and making the design more responsive to smartphones better?
Redesigning Your Site for Mobile
Mobile-friendly or mobile-optimized? Simply put, a mobile-friendly site is one that can be seen and used on mobiles, though the experience may not be great (Apple's site is mobile-friendly). A mobile-optimized site has been designed so that it transforms to fit the screen space (YouTube's website does this). Another thing to consider with mobile-friendly versus optimized is that if your site uses Flash for diagrams or other visuals, you'd probably have to get rid of it in order to make your site mobile-friendly or at least have it converted to HTML.
So again, you have to ask yourself if a stripped-down, mobile-friendly site is good enough and whether your mobile audience is large enough to justify the changes to your regular website to accommodate them.
Obviously, if you're already considering re-designing your site, you're in a good position to include mobile optimization, especially if you're planning to use HTML5, which may be easier for developers when targeting multiple devices. But if you aren't planning a re-design, having one forced on you by the marketplace can be difficult. Especially for a small non-profit.
For many of you, this post is full of stuff you don't know much about and probably don't want to. How do you take this all in and decide what you should do? We'll talk about that in Part 3.
Google/Ipsos Release Mobile...Statistics
GoMo: Go Mobile by Google
Infographic: Great Trends in Mobile
Internet on the Move: Why Mobile Matters
Mobile Apps for Development
Why We Shouldn't Make Separate Mobile Websites
Why your site should be "Mobile Friendly" or "Mobile Optimized"