WORKING THE WEB: Pay attention to the mobile Web for your business

For many years, there has been the promise that a critical mass of people would be using mobile communications devices to access the Web, therefore starting a whole new era online.

But perhaps we let our desires for progress get ahead of the technology. The first devices that hit the market were expensive and not very usable for Web surfing, and the wireless access was slow and spotty at best. More advances came, each one a little better, but still something was lacking.

That changed with the advent of the iPhone. This innovative device is thriving because of its flexibility to do just about anything. One of the most innovated features is how it allows programmers to build "apps," or mini applications that do everything from find the nearest bathroom to playing World of Warcraft.

This has led to an explosion in popularity that shows no signs of stopping. In two short years, the iPhone now makes up more than half of the online traffic from mobile devices. Last week, Apple hit a milestone with a billion apps downloaded for the iPhone, in just nine months.

Have you looked at your Web site on an iPhone? You should, because chances are, someone has already. While the iPhone renders Web pages pretty well, it's good to know how your site looks on one, and how you can optimize it to look better.

One drawback of the iPhone is that it doesn't support Flash, an animation file type used on a lot of Web sites, especially for fancy splash pages. If your site has one of these Flash animations, you may have to go back and create a new entry page for the iPhone so your customers aren't shut out.

An easy way to optimize your site for iPhones and other mobile browsers is to use Mofuse. This service creates a version of your site that is easily accessible via mobile devices. There is a basic free version, and a paid version that gives you a lot of good options for how you want your site to look.

Also know that people will be using their iPhones to find you through other sites and apps, such as Google Maps and Yelp. If you haven't already listed your business on Google Maps, do it now. And look at what Yelp says about your business to make sure you have some good customer reviews.

As the iPhone and other mobile devices get better, businesses will need to pay more attention to how they interact with them. There is a lot of potential in the mobile Web now that technology has caught up with our dreams. It may be that mobile overtakes desktop access at some point in the near future, so start preparing now.

- Contact Kirk Caraway at


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