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Mobile website design — the art and science of making a website fit well, work well, and be effective on a mobile device with a small screen and no mouse — is all the rage these days. There are competing camps arguing over which of various techniques are best for the process, and so on. In the end, though, there are exactly five things that mobile websites need to do that normal websites don’t — and they’re the only things that actually matter.
Be Legible On A Mobile Screen
The number one most obvious thing: mobile devices can have screens as small as 3.9 inches. Your mobile site has to make sense on everything from that tiny screen all the way up to the new Kindle Fire HD’s 9′ screen.
Make Sense with a Touch Screen
The next clear-as-day element of mobile devices: no mouse. If your page can’t be easily used with a touch screen — for example, if you have a flash game that requires mouseovers to get information — it won’t work on a mobile device, period.
Be Usable with One Hand and Half a Brain
People at their desktop have two hands available and usually most of their attention is focused as well. On a mobile device, they might well be on it while walking up stairs with a sleeping child draped over their shoulder, one-handing their device while dodging lego caltrops on the steps. Your page had best be easy both manually and mentally or it’ll just get skipped over by the busier of the mobile surfers.
Be Quick to Load and Easy on Bandwidth
Many mobile surfers are on limited-bandwidth plans, and if they find out that they’re approaching their bandwidth caps whenever they start visiting your site, it’ll vanish never to be thought of again. At the same time, mobile surfers aren’t any more patient than desktop users, so having a slow-loading page will get you passed up as well.
Interact Appropriately with SEO
This is the difficult one because of the multiple camps of how to build mobile pages — but either:
1) Your mobile page should use the same URL as your desktop page, and thus benefit from all of the same SEO efforts.
2) Your mobile page should be a completely separate entity and you should do entirely separate SEO for your mobile page.
Creating a mobile page under option one is more expensive — but you save money in the long run by not having to pay your SEO specialists to run an entirely new batch of keywords for your second site, so take that for what it’s worth.