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Why Do People Use a Smartphone to Call a Plumbing, Electrical, or HVAC Company? Does Your Website Give Smartphone Users What They Need?

For the last few weeks, we’ve been talking about the increase in smartphone use and the decrease in Yellow Pages use. As we have already observed in previous blogs, that adds up to two very important conclusions: 1) more and more of your potential customers will be looking for you on the web; and 2) many of those potential customers will be using a smartphone to do it.

Your website needs to be smartphone-friendly, that’s for sure.

But what exactly does “smartphone-friendly” mean?

Well, let’s start with the basics: your website must be compatible with Safari, the most common smartphone web browser.

Also, you need to make sure that there’s no Flash on your website. Flash can be cool, but iPhones (arguably cooler) just don’t get along with it. There are work-arounds that let people view Flash on iPhones, sure, but you have to have some technical interest and skill to implement them. Chances are your customers won’t be interested in doing extra work to see your website; they’ll call your competitor instead. Leave the Flash for your teenager to play with on YouTube.

But…even if your website is compatible with Safari and is Flash-free, it might not be truly smartphone-friendly. If you’ve ever used a smartphone to surf the web, you know that on some websites it can be really hard to get to the information you want. Often, navigation points like tabs, links, or buttons are so small on a smartphone screen that it can be difficult even to know what a website offers, much less get there. If there are a lot of navigation points spreading horizontally across the screen, you have to scroll and scroll and scroll to see them all. If “Contact Us” is all the way on the right of all that navigation, will your customers have the patience to travel all the way over to it? And, if the “Contact Us” button is really small, will they be able to press it comfortably or will they hit another button by accident? You get the idea.

To make sure that all our clients’ websites work optimally on smartphones, we’ve created a “quick action” mobile template and install it on every website we build. The experience is seamless for the user: if someone visits one of our clients’ websites using a smartphone, he or she is immediately taken to the mobile version of the website. (There is special code built into the programming that detects the kind of device that the visitor is using.)

To design our mobile website template, we asked ourselves two questions:

  1. When and why are people using their smartphones to call service companies?
  2. What information will satisfy their needs?

Based on our own experience and what our clients have told us about their customers, people don’t use a smartphone to look for extensive information about a service company. They may enjoy your blog, but they’re not going to use their smartphone to read it. When they go to your website via smartphone, they probably have an emergency or already know what they want to do (book an annual inspection, buy a service contract, etc). They want what we call “quick action” information: When are you open? Do you have 24-hour service? Do you fix toilets or do you only do HVAC equipment? How can they email or call you right now?

Our mobile templates put all that primary information out there, literally at users’ fingertips. Then, to make sure that everyone can see and access it easily, we make sure that the logo is big enough to see, the font is big enough to read, and the links and phone numbers are big enough for everyone to click on, even if they have great big clumsy fingers (like our CTO’s).

Of course, our mobile websites also contain a link to the client’s main website in case someone does want to research something more closely or read the blog – because after all, what is more exciting than a blog?

On that note of shameless self-promotion, iMarket’s blogger will sign off for this week. Next week, we’ll look at the other big new market that Bing is trying to break into – social search.

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