The rise of the mobile web, the proliferation of highly capable smartphones, and the increasing prevalence of tablet-based computing all combine to make the design and implementation of your website’s mobile version more important than ever before. However, it’s not enough to just strip out the large image files and replace animated buttons with plain text links and call it a day; the mobile experience needs to be a different experience, because the customer visiting your site on her iPhone may very well be looking for something different than the one at home or work accessing the site via a desktop browser.

Every business is different and what one set of customers absolutely requires may be a “nice to have” for customers of another firm or in another industry. So what kind of business are you in?

Local Service Oriented Businesses

Hotels, restaurants, hair salons, professional services, and so forth. Your customers are going to use your mobile site to find basic information about your business, to get your phone number or address, to reserve a table or book a room. Make your phone number and address prominent on the page – and provide both plain text information for people with older phones, and clickable buttons that auto-launch the maps or phone dialer applications for customers who are a little more up to date. Bring the basic information about your business – the menu for your restaurant, the room rates at your hotel, the hours of your retail establishment – to the “top” of the site, and put more complex or detailed information, if you include it at all, tucked away where it can be found but does not intrude.

Informational/News Websites

The visitors to a site like this are there to read or watch the articles, photos and videos. They might be killing time, or they might be a power-user getting their daily news download – accommodate both with robust and easy browsing features, as well as a prominent and top-notch search function. Include a “top stories” or “most popular” section to get casual viewers right to the core of the site. Let visitors customize their experience with category, location, or keyword-based filtering so that they can create their own preferred experience.

E-commerce sales are exploding; for 2013, Forrester predicts a 50% increase over the 2012 numbers, totaling $12 billion in sales. Most e-commerce sites are already pretty good at presenting products to the mobile visitor; where you can shine is by enhancing the checkout experience. The mobile checkout experience needs to be a lot simpler than would be the case on a desktop. That means keeping it lightweight, using simple forms rather than client-heavy tools. Keep things secure (and provide reassurances of that to the viewer), but be sure to allow guest checkouts. Keep data input to a minimum – for example, once you ask for the zip code, you don’t need city and state information. Integrate your checkout with online payment options such as PayPal and Google Wallet.

The key element to remember in crafting your mobile site is that the user’s experience is the ultimate metric. A site which pleases the IT department and makes Marketing smile, but that goes unused because your customers don’t feel it meets their needs, is a terrible site. Consider what your mobile customers are using the site for now, as well as any feature sets they have requested for the near term future, and you won’t go wrong.