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Make your move to a mobile website

The number of mobile Internet users are rapidly growing and will overtake the number of desktop Internet users in three years, according to digitalbuzzblog.com. For some time, Apple has been selling twice as many iPads as computers each quarter.

A mobile version of your church’s website may be necessary, because Internet-usage practices and experiences on mobile devices differ from those on laptop and desktop computers. If 20 percent or more people come to your website on mobile devices, it is time to evaluate your mobile options. You can check this statistic using google analytics.

When planning a mobile version of your website, consider these differences:

  • Mobile devices are tool/activity-focused. Generally, their users are trying to accomplish something quickly. Desktop/laptop users are usually more passive in interacting with information.
  • The Internet loads more slowly on mobile devices.
  • Mobile screens are smaller.

The good news is that a mobile website will be similar to your existing site, so you do not need to learn any new web building skills. You just have to make a slightly different version of what you already have.

Here is one simple way to create your mobile site: Create a new section in your existing website using the tools you already use (same server, content-management system, domain name, etc.). You can then choose three to 10 appropriate pages from your current site and link to them through the new mobile page. Though this process will be manual, it can make creating a mobile site a breeze. Essentially, you will create a new mobile optimized site to run alongside your existing site.

A more advanced way to create your mobile website is to use software tools that guide you through the process automatically. This enables you to copy and migrate existing content from your current website to a mobile site. Some of these tools are Wordpress Mobile EditionMobile Joomla!Mobify and mobiSiteGalore. If you already use one of these more advanced content-management systems, you may be able to flip a few configuration switches to create a mobile site from your existing content.

Remember the distinct navigational needs of mobile site visitors. Mobile users have different goals than traditional website users. The most difficult part of creating a mobile website is choosing what content is most important. . Choose content that gives your users popular information, such as your schedule of services, important phone numbers, and calendar of events. Keep longer articles as well as most images on your existing site.

First United Methodist Church in West Lafayette, Ind., includes these elements on its mobile website:

  • Things To Do
  • News
  • About Us
  • Sermons and Music
  • Site Map
  • First Church Wired (its technology outreach program)

Also listed is a link back to the homepage of its main website, which has much more content.

In North Carolina, Archdale United Methodist Church takes a similarly minimalist approach on its mobile website but also lists daily Bible study information. All links, however, connect back to the full website. This simple approach is utilitarian but effective and quick to build.

One is to create a new opening page that viewers see first with the name of your church and two links – one to the full website and one to the mobile site. Direct your homepage URL to go to this opening page. The URL for the mobile site could be your full homepage URL with /m or /mobile after the page name. If you are familiar with java scripting and cookies, another option is to use browser-detection scripts to redirect mobile users to your mobile page. Always give users the option to go to your full site (using cookies). Sometimes, mobile visitors prefer viewing the full site.

If you want to test your site on the major mobile operating systems, the best plan is to check it on different devices. You will find a variety of free testers online. Note that they are usually pegged to one operating system, such as the Android EmulatoriPhone Simulator and BlackBerry Simulators. In addition, they are sometimes promotional sites for selling mobile-developer software. More and more people are using independent mobile web browsers, and native-operating-system/browser testers might not include these third-party applications.