By Aaron Foster

A few years ago, having a website with design elements created specifically for a small mobile device screen was almost unheard of. However, today, if you don’t have a mobile site, you could be doing significant damage to your brand.

Over the last several years, Nielsen has reported large jumps in the amount of time people use the Internet on mobile devices. Between 2012 and 2013, they found that the amount of time spent browsing on mobile devices increased an average of 35 hours per person per month, and that desktop access decreased by two hours per month.

Furthermore, since the release and subsequent adoption of 4G (WiMAX and LTE) data networks seven years ago, the ability for mobile devices to show well-designed and rich websites has increased dramatically. Because websites now have faster download speeds between 100 Mbit/s and 1 Gbit/s, websites can now incorporate more than plain text and basic links. Today’s mobile sites can be just as responsive, if not more so, than their desktop counterparts.

Mobile Design Structures

Web design for mobile content does not require a complete restructuring of a site’s content, but rather a rethinking of how the content is presented and delivered. Desktop sites tend to have a more vertical design because it is inefficient and often uncomfortable to scroll horizontally with a mouse. However, because smartphones like the iPhone 6 have large, responsive touch screens, users can easily scroll vertically or horizontally with their fingers. For example, carousels take advantage of the multi-touch gesture of swiping on a smartphone, explains Smashing Magazine. This can best be seen in mobile calendars or photos. This way, the designer can keep all of the important information above the fold while the user can swipe horizontally through the album, collection or other tools.

Load Times

The first thing to remember when working with a mobile site is that the customer has a set amount of screen real estate. Therefore, the most important information should load first and quickly. In 2013, Google updated its guidelines for smartphone sites, stating that the content should be delivered in one second or less. Furthermore, Google uses page speed in its rankings, so developers need to focus on delivering the most relevant information in the quickest way possible.

Apps vs. Mobile Websites

While developing an app instead of a mobile site can be tempting, it can detract from your ability to be noticed, explains mobiForge. This is mainly because search engines are not able to index your app in the same way as a mobile site. Without this indexing, your content cannot be found as quickly or easily and therefore won’t be as useful in the long term.

Mobile device usage will most likely continue to integrate into our daily lives at a faster pace as technology and connectivity continue to get better, faster and more reliable. It is imperative that companies take the time to learn how to make better versions of their mobile sites. Doing so can increase the happiness of customers and help your business continue to grow.

Aaron Foster is a Phoenix-based film maker and photographer. He has worked on projects ranging from short films to commercials.