The mobile web is something I've been thinking about a lot recently. With my SEO clients looking towards mobile for the future and new web design clients, such as Rhona Petrie, looking to use mobile as an extra sales channel. Before we go any further this post is also going to be a little review for the National Rail website, they are my tool for explaining how 2012 will be the year of the mobile web. Back in 2009, I rated it as my favourite redesign, in 2010 the National Rail website was updated and I again was very impressed. And in 2012?
Progression to the Mobile Web
When National Rail updated in 2009 they also introduced a very slimmed down version of the website for mobile. It was pretty much plain text with a few input boxes, but it did the job. Last year it was updated to look a little nicer but the functionality remained the same, as did the ugly web address it had.
In March, National Rail updated the mobile website to look pretty damn nice. It was still fairly restrictive in what it could do but it was easy to use and better than most app's from train companies.
A few weeks ago National Rail released a free app for Android and iPhone. As with the website itself, the app is ad supported, so don't be surprised. The app is pretty clever and has things like the ability to set your home and work location, get alerts when your train is going to be 5+ mins late, pinning of trains (so you don't need to search for your train each night to check its on time), checking of trains times from your current station to any other uk station, live departure and arrivals, train status updates and more. The app is fast and reliable in my experience. Indeed it's one of the best app's I've ever downloaded.
Click here to download it for Android from the Google Play Store or for iPhone at the Apple App Store. You can upgrade to an ad-free version, but I am unsure what extras you get with that upgrade other than no ads.
From the above you can see the progression that National Rail have made from having nothing to something that "will do" to something really nice and on top of that now a mobile app. In general this iteration is something I am a fan of. Yes if you are building a new website it should be responsive and behave on a mobile. But if you have an old website it is not hard to make the site adaptive, or even to create a second website just for mobile - these are equally valid steps, you don't need to spend lots of cash on a full redesign. Iteration not Revolution!
Also in the past few weeks National Rail has updated it's website again to add more features and improve it's services. It again is an iteration of the previous design, it makes things easier to find and understand. You can read about these updates on the National Rail blog.
The Year of the Mobile Web
One of my 18 SEO Trends to look out for in 2012 was that "mobile search would be huge" and I suggested this because users are moving from sitting in front of a monitor to using a phone and other mobile devices. It seems I was right, I am happy to say. You cans ee some amazing stats at gpmd.
From this stems my idea that 2012 is the year of mobile, when mobile matures and becomes the norm, the expected, and not an extra or something found only on geek websites. That is why my new website design clients have mobile websites, that is why my search clients are looking to mobile and that is why you should too be looking at mobile.
As I have said above, it doesn't need to be expensive and you don't need a mobile app. You just need to consider what your users will want, why they want it and how to take the first steps in getting there. Usually this will be adding a bit of styling to make your website mobile friendly, in other cases it will be redesigning the site to some extent and in other cases yes it requires a new website. But without a website the works on mobile you will begin to find traffic dropping and customers not finding you any more. So Get Mobile.
With thanks to the NRE Blog for use of the above image