Madison lawyer Sally Hestad about six months ago made a sizable investment in her firm’s two websites, spending about $4,500 for an overhaul and to create mobile versions.
The mobile idea was Hestad’s. Her vendor, Eric Landmann, lead developer for Madison-based Landmann InterActive, said it was the first mobile version he had designed for a law firm. So she wasn’t entirely sure about that aspect of the project.
But not long after Hestad completed the project, a client hired her and said he found her by using his mobile device.
Hestad said she anticipated the fees from his case would more than cover the website improvements. The rest is a bonus.
Hestad correctly perceived that smart phone use would skyrocket.
A March study from the Pew Research Center supports her hunch. According to the report, 46 percent of American adults now own smart phones, up from 35 percent in 2011; smart phone ownership is most common among people aged 25 to 34, with 71 percent using one; and even those reporting annual incomes of less than $30,000 favor smart phones, with 34 percent saying they have one. That’s up from 22 percent in 2011.
And that was just a smart phone study that didn’t consider the wildly popular iPads or other tablets.
Furthermore, by the end of next year, observers predict, 60 percent to 70 percent of all traffic on the Internet will come from mobile devices.
Landmann said many people wouldn’t even need to use a desktop computer system.
“The mobile,” he said, “will be their primary means of seeing your site.”
Hestad kept simplicity in mind for the mobile versions by picking and choosing content from her regular websites. For example, her mobile home pages mostly are just menus.
Reducing the navigation options was by design, Landmann said.
“There are fewer pages,” he said, “and they should be much more concise.”
Skip the lengthy white papers. Instead, post targeted information, such as pointers on what to do if someone is involved in an auto accident, Landmann said. As for bios, he said, brevity is essential.
Think about the user’s convenience, said St. Paul attorney Robert Hoglund, who created a mobile version of his firm’s site about six months ago. For example, when users click on an office address, it takes them to Google Maps and Google Navigation for directions. Likewise, the telephone number is on every page, with a click-and-call feature.
Mobile sites minimize graphics and mostly are text because users won’t tolerate long downloads for graphics when they’re stuck in line or in the physician’s waiting room.
Further, Landmann said, mobile sites should contain links to the regular site, and vice versa, because occasionally users might want to see the complete website, especially when accessing it from an iPad or other device with a larger screen.
Use Google Analytics to see the return on the mobile site investment. Hogland’s information technology manager, Marc Bishop, said it’s easy to track if visitors are using PCs smart phones.
Do it yourself or outsource?
There are free or extremely inexpensive ways to create mobile-friendly websites.
Google Sites offers a feature that mobilizes a website. Those domain names, though, include the word “Google.”
For those sites that already have a URL, GoMo offers ways to create a mobile version for free. After a year, there’s a $9 monthly hosting fee.
Both use templates, which could clash with your brand or just turn out ugly. If that’s the case, a vendor might be the best option.
Vendors should offer some assurance the final product will work and rank highly in search results when people search practice areas and geographic locations, Landmann said.
“The big advantage of using a professional is: You can see what they’ve done, and you can get a custom size — shape, size, color, fonts, hierarchy — designed for your audience and your practice,” he said. “It’s what sets you apart from your competition.”