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I write a Tech Talk column for the bi-monthly newspaper State of the Arts, published by the Montana Arts Council. My latest is Virtual Private Networks. My archives are here and you can subscribe to my RSS feed with your feed reader or by by email.

State of the Arts for April/May/June 2016: Is Your Website Mobile Compatible?

(One of my Montana Arts Council State of the Arts Newspaper Tech Talk Columns)

Last year – or even years before, depending on the web traffic stats you read – total web traffic from mobile devices, such as smart phones, tablets, and others tipped over the 50% mark. That means more people are using their mobile devices rather than full size Macs/PCs for web access. And that trend will continue; there is no going back.

That 50% mark may not mean much at first glance, but it could mean a whole lot when it comes to your own or your organization’s web presence. Is your web site mobile compatible? If not, you’re losing page views. How can you check?

If your site is not mobile compatible, users may just leave when they see that your home page displays too wide on their tiny screens, or with the content jumbled because the website doesn’t know how to react to a mobile device. And with the web being the primary way people find anything these days (when was the last time you picked up a phone book?), you don’t want users leaving once they arrive.

Website compatibility for mobile devices is called “responsiveness.” That is, the website responds to the format of the device being used. Back in the bad old days of the web, websites were static in that respect; you got what was there, in one format. But that was before smart phones.

These days, your site won’t look exactly the same on a mobile device – it can’t because of the screen size – but the site elements and content blocks and images should “shuffle” down into a smaller width (for tablets) or long list (for narrow screen phones), but still be readable and useable. If not, your users may leave.

What can you do? The best thing to do is the easiest – take a look at your site with your smart phone or table. Check all the pages for a readable layout. If you use third-party ads, check how they display.

If you use a content management system (CMS) such as WordPress, Drupal or others, your site’s mobile compatibility mostly depends on not the CMS backend where you edit pages and posts, but with the “theme” – the front end design – which users see. If you use a commercial service like Squarespace or Wix, those platforms offer mobile compatibility out of the box, but they both advise you to test, too.

There are ways to check your site’s mobile compatibility without getting too geeky. And this method if useful if you don’t have a big collection of mobile devices to check with (like most of don’t), and is more reliable than the websites out there that provide screenshots of your site on different devices. I describe this method – and ways to work toward fixing the mobile compatibility of your site if you find issues – in an article at Words on WordPress: Mobile Compatibility @ Mark Ratledge .com

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