It's surprising how many organizations are still expecting mobile visitors to use their desktop website. Yet, nearly half of mobile users become frustrated with desktop websites.

So, what's the big deal?

A little frustration builds character, right? Not so much.

Mobile users will leave the website if they have trouble accessing it. 78% are willing to retry a website two times before leaving. Nearly half of these users are unlikely to return and 57% are unlikely to recommend it. 33% will go to a competitor's website instead. That's a pretty significant downside.

People get frustrated with desktop websites because they simply don't work on mobile devices. Here's why:

  • Desktop websites take longer than four seconds to load on a mobile device.
    Mobile users have slower connection speeds than broadband, and smartphones have less CPU and memory than desktops.
  • People use their fingers and thumbs to operate a mobile device.
    Small buttons and links can be difficult to click without a mousepointer.
  • It takes longer to type on a virtual keyboard.
    Long webforms are even more discouraging on a mobile device.
  • It's harder to read on a small screen.
    The font sizes are smaller and users may be in a place with low light or have screen glare (as opposed to a well-lit desktop area).
  • People perform different tasks when browsing on a smartphone.
    There's generally more need for local info and less need for photos and video.
  • There is less screen real estate on a mobile device.
    This means there will be more scrolling and less tolerance for clutter.
  • Flash doesn't work on an iPhone.

How to make your mobile site mobile-friendly

Being mobile-friendly is more than just having a mobile optimized site that loads quickly. It's also about understanding the way smartphones are used by people and tailoring the experience around that. Here are some important best practices to help create a great mobile experience.

Simplify your navigation

  • Stick with a single menu only. Avoid secondary and tertiary navigation menus if possible.
  • Use back and home buttons to help users navigate between levels.
  • Use a custom navigation structure highlighting the tasks mobile users want to perform.
  • Use large buttons in a vertical format to make it easy to click with fingers and thumbs.
  • If your site has a lot of content, have a prominent search feature.

Take advantage of mobile functionality

  • Click to call for phone numbers
  • Geolocation to automatically display location-specific content
  • Input types for webforms to control which virtual keyboard is pulled up

Keep it accessible and easy to read

  • Use HTML5 instead of Flash
  • Use large fonts that contrast with the background
  • Minimize scrolling

Conclusion

In a world where nearly everyone owns a smartphone, having a poor mobile experience is a big problem. With the downsides to having a poor experience being so high, relying on a desktop website isn't going to cut it anymore. Mobile is here, and it's time to get on the bandwagon.

Did I leave anything out? Please share your thoughts on this subject in the comments.

Johan Johansson is a web developer at Pixelmade, a Vancouver web design + internet marketing firm.You can find him on Twitter and Google+.