I have a lot of clients that end up asking this question. Usually it is because they get a cold email or phone call from a Mobile Website company. My answer in both long form and short form are below.
Short Answer: NO
Long Answer: No except in very unique situations
Usually the sales call starts with some statistics that, are usually correct, if their answer is the wrong answer. They will tell you more and more people are using their mobile phones and you know what? They are correct. More and more people use their mobile phones to access your website.
Some numbers will tell you that 25% of the population only access the internet through mobile devices. And this is not hard to understand. Apple alone has sold 225 million iPads and many people (like my Mom for example) are using it as a desktop replacement to access websites, pay bills and answer emails.
“We host your website on “Cloud” servers through Amazon.” Amazon Web Services are a a great way to use cheap server resources. In fact tons of tech startups use AWS to host their applications. But, if you have good quality servers you most likely also use “cloud” hosting. For example, the servers I put my customers on use Cloud Linux and Litespeed web servers. Sounds fancy doesn’t it? But I get to brag to my customers I use “cloud” hosting.
Why shouldn’t I use a mobile website from one of these companies?
90% of the businesses and people that get approached by these companies have cheaper, more effective and better options for a good mobile experience. Let’s look at some examples:
Responsive Websites: The world is moving to responsive. A responsive website is one that adjusts its lay out to the screen size. For example, almost all sites I create for customers are responsive meaning they will never need a mobile website.
WordPress: If you are on wordpress and it is not responsive, there is an easy fix. There is a plugin from a company called WPTouch. It even works if you have a woocommerce store. This plugin will detect a mobile browser and convert your entire wordpress site to mobile. This is by far the best mobile plugin I have used for wordpress sites.
E-Commerce Website: Mobile websites sometimes work very well for e-commerce websites and I still use them in some cases. But, the key here, they should be fully integrated into your shopping cart. For example, if you are using a company like BigCommerce or 3DCart, they provide a mobile site fully integrated with your website.
Flash based websites: If your website uses flash one of two things has happened. You have not had your website updated for a long time and it is time to do a refresh, most likely to something responsive. The second thing, you had your website designed and the “designer” hasn’t maintained their skills in years which means you were handed a bag of nothing. Sorry to tell you this, anything built after 2008 should not be using flash elements in your web design.
When should I buy a mobile website?
There are a few times when a mobile website makes sense. First, if you have a very unique website and its hard to easily change out, having a mobile website to hold you over while you get things changed, might make sense. You can get that for $9 a month through a company called Duda Mobile.
But, this should be a stop gap solution until you can do a redesign. I know many companies hate the idea of redesigning a website but there are so many reasons to do it.
Old Websites are
Image Heavy – While images are important, you need to make sure they are optimized for mobile use which means, not to big. I have seen many a time when sites are slow because images are to big. Not only that, limited bandwidth compared to home internet.
Responsive – Ideal if you can do it. Consistent branding amongst all platforms and social media is key
Collecting Emails – Email marketing is huge so making sure you can collect email addresses for your list on both mobile and desktop is key. I have yet to see a mobile website where they allow you to collect email addresses
How to prepare for a website redesign?
Collect the URL for every single webpage on your website. This way if you use a different CMS or structure, you can do 301 redirects to point to each new page and keep.
Copy your menu structure
Copy all the website copy and paste them onto Text file (text edition Mac, Notepad on Windows). This way your web designer has it all without formatting making it easier to create.
Gather all your photos, logos and other assets together and put them into one folder to be used on your website.
Collect your color scheme: If you are using the same color scheme you already have, the easiest way to do this is take a screenshot of your webpage and add it to a color extracting website to get the Hex Codes. This way your web designer knows the colors to use on your website.
Choose a Font – The easiest way is to head over to Google Fonts and choose a font. My two favorite right now are Droid Sans and Railway.
What should I do about being mobile?
The first advice I give, is don’t listen to the sales person with the dying business. Yes, I said dying. I am sure I will get some scoldings in the comments but these companies selling mobile sites will need to adjust or die. To often they keep pushing an old business because people don’t know any better. Second, talk to your current web designer and what they think. Third, talk to your social media consultant, see what they might suggest, and fourth, take into consideration everything I talked about above.