The growing popularity of smartphones, and of mobile computing in general, is already starting to change the way visitors interact with your site. It’s not too soon to start laying out the blueprint for a version of your site designed expressly for pocket-sized screens.
Times may be tough, but the smartphone market isn’t hurting because of it. According to market researcher, NPD Group, 23 percent of cellphones sold in the U.S. during the fourth quarter of 2008 were smartphones. That’s up from 12 percent of sales in the fourth quarter of 2007. And, for the first time, last year, sales of smartphones exceeded those of laptops, even as netbooks exploded on the market like fragmentation grenades.
Web browsing on the iPhone, which undoubtedly offers the best mobile experience at the moment, is still a pain. Viewing Web pages over anything but Wi-Fi is molasses slow; it’s damn hard to see what you’re looking at; and scrolling makes my finger ache. It’s 1994 all over again.
There’s only so much smartphone makers can do with the platform. The rest of the heavy lifting will have to come from Web site makers.
That means designing Web pages optimized for the small screen and are more readily accessible to smartphone users. Everyone–consumers, business people and manufacturers–get all up and teary eyed about having the ability to browse the Internet with smartphones. How often do you think people really do that? I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts the only time most smartphone users visit a Web site is when they don’t have any other option. That’s the way things will stay but only for a while longer.
Bettering the iPhone and iPod touch Viewing Experience on WordPress
I’m an avid Apple iPhone user, and I’m enamoured with the interface, but I also see there’s plenty of room to better the platform and user experience.
WPtouch optimizes sites built on WordPress so they appear more iPhone-like and come down to viewers much faster, especially over 3G and EDGE. If you don’t like the look of this place on your handheld, a button tap will toggle you back to the same view you see on your desktop.
From WP’s admin side, I can customize the site’s appearance with colors, icons and other goodies without having to modify any code. I’m still experimenting. I’ll let you know how it works out.
Track Your iPhone Traffic on Google Analytics
This is also a good time to mention that Google recently glued another feature to Google Analytics. Under the Advanced Segments menu, you’ll find a new option. Check the box next to Visits from iPhones to see how much of your traffic comes from iPhone users (and I assume iPod touch users who connect over Wi-Fi).
Go to your Google Analytics Dashboard and near the upper right-hand corner, you’ll see the Advanced Segments drop-down menu.
You might need to uncheck the box next to All Visits at the top of the Advanced Segments menu when viewing your iPhone segment. If the percentage of total visits from the iPhone is small (and it probably will be), it could be hard to compare the two data sets on the same graph.
The amount of traffic I get from iPhone/iPod touch has ranged from 0 to 20 percent of total daily visitors. Now that I’ve installed the WPtouch plugin, I’ll be curious to see if the numbers will go up (assuming the upward trend of daily visitors continues to hold).