By Daniel Burrus
Were in the midst of one the biggest software and hardware revolutions weve ever witnessed. With processing power, storage and bandwidth increasing exponentially, smartphones and smart tablets are quickly becoming our main personal and business computer. Customers, employees and other stakeholders are bringing and using their smartphones and tablets everywhere, and that definitely impacts how they see and interact with your self-storage company online.
For facilities of all sizes, this means its time to take a good look at your website. Sure, your site might look great on a desktop or laptop computer screen, but how does it look on all the different sizes of screens found on todays wide variety of tablets and smartphones? Chances are the answer is not good. Thats why all companies need to make their site adaptive and design them for mobile first.
Building an Adaptive Website
To address the mobile revolution, many companies have created a second mobile version of their website so their content can be viewed on smartphones without a problem. But there are big problems! First, you have to design, maintain and pay for two separate websites. When you update one, the other is, in most cases, not automatically updated. Additionally, the mobile site is designed for a specific mobile-screen size.
If your user doesnt have that phone model, hell still have to scroll around to see your mobile site version. To get a better idea of why a traditionally designed website doesnt work for mobile devices, try this little experiment. Using a laptop or desktop, go to your companys website. Depending on the size of your screen, the website will either fill the entire screen or there will be a border on the right and left side.
Using your mouse arrow, grab the bottom right corner of the browser window for your website. Drag it from the right to the left diagonally up, and start making the window smaller. If your website is not adaptive, youll see that all youre really doing is covering things up. And as soon as the window gets smaller than the predefined width of the site, youll see scrollbars appear on the right and bottom. Now the only way to move around on the page is to scroll.
Keep making the window smaller until its about the size of a smartphone screen. How does it look? Youll see it probably doesnt look good at all. As a matter of fact, its probably not useful either.
If your website was adaptive, as you move that window and make it smaller, the text would automatically reformat and the pictures would move accordingly to fit the smaller screen size. The menu would also adapt and change so your website and content would work on any device.
That last point is important, because, as I mentioned earlier, not all smartphones have the same screen size. An Android screen is different from an iPhone screen, which is different from a Blackberry screen. Even tablets have different screen sizes. So if you dont have an adaptive site, the person viewing your site on their tablet or smartphone will end up having to scroll somehow, somewhere.
To see a real example of how an adaptive site would look, visit http://calebogden.com, http://owltastic.com or http://thinkvitamin.com. Give them a try. View them on your laptop first and shrink the browser window as described earlier. Notice how the site changes to fit any size screen. Now try them on your tablet or smartphone. Regardless of screen size, theyll all look great. The good news is any website developer can do this once he understands the concept!
So the message is clear: The time to create an adaptive site is now. That means you have two choices. You can go back to whoever designed your current site and have him take your current look and make it adaptive, or you can start over and design a new website.
Design for Mobile First
If you decide its time to design a new website, an important key to success is to design it for mobile first. When you do this, you have to re-evaluate all your content. Business owners as well as website designers are still in laptop- and desktop-design mode. And because theyre thinking in terms of large screens that need to be filled, they put a lot of content onlineoften way too much. As a result, the vast majority of websites are bloated with way too much information.
Its time to throw out all that non-essential stuff. The best way to help you make those tough decisions about which content to cut is to think in terms of mobile first. After all, if your main design is optimized for a small screen that adapts by getting bigger when viewed on a laptop screen (as opposed to shrinking when it gets viewed on a smaller screen), it will be easier to take out all the content and graphics that are not really necessary.
If you think all the content on your current site is necessary, youre only fooling yourself. Most companies have websites that are way too busy. And while the website may look nice and be cool or trendy, its not getting to the essence of what people need to make decisions or to buy your products. This gives you a strategic reason to get rid of the clutter.
Designing for mobile first forces you to make the hard decisions of what should stay and what should go. Its similar to when someone moves from a large house to a small condo. When you have the big house, you fill it with a lot of furniture you dont use, a lot of artwork you dont look at, and a lot of must have gadgets you dont need. Once you downsize your space, you realize you dont need all that stuff. Even though letting go is painful at first, it gradually gets easier once you realize how free and uncluttered you feel.
The same concept applies for your website. You have a big screen to fill, so you fill it. Now put your website on a small screen and decide what your self-storage prospects and customers really need to make a buying decision.
The Future of Website Design
Make no mistake: Its a hard trend (a certainty) that tablets and smartphones are rapidly becoming peoples main computer. Therefore, you want your website to be seen well on these devices and be useful. If you dont want the added expense and hassle of two websites, then step one is to make your current site adaptive. When its time to redo the site entirely, design it for mobile first. These two steps will put you light years ahead of your competition and boost your online presence and sales immensely.
Daniel Burrus is a technology forecaster and business strategist as well as the founder and CEO of Burrus Research, a research and consulting firm that monitors global advancements in technology-driven trends to help clients better understand how technological, social and business forces are converging to create enormous, untapped opportunities. Burrus is the author of six books, including the national bestseller Flash Foresight: How To See the Invisible and Do the Impossible (www.flashforesight.com) as well as the highly acclaimed Technotrends. For more information, visit www.burrus.com.