When to convert to mobile?

When is a good time to convert your site to mobile? Before you say right now, let me explain:

As a professional and forward-thinking designer, I know that mobile has already been a major factor for years and I am behind the curve. I am personally ready to tackle mobile and have even done research into HOW to do it. However, I work for a small community college in a rural area that has been slow to adopt mobile phones that have the capability to surf the web. I also act not only as the web designer/developer, but also as the graphic designer, photographer, and social media expert. My boss needs NUMBERS before she will let me devote time and resources to the project. Currently, our percentage of mobile use is at 7.88% within a month’s time. What is the typical percentage of use companies acquire before going mobile? (Although I realize that with the proliferation of mobile, the smartest companies have a mobile site ready from the get-go. Again, I’m working in education and in a rural area, where technology evolves at a slower pace.)

Any insight would be much appreciated!


I’m unclear about what your specific question is.

Each website is different and has its own user demographic.

If your website analytics reveal that not enough users visit your site using a mobile browser to warrant the expensive of overhauling your site, then the business decision is simple.

However, the common approach these days is a responsive design that uses media types to determine which CSS stylesheets are loaded according to browser resolution. Typically, it wouldn’t take long to implement even a barebones stylesheet.

[font=verdana]Part of the answer will depend on what you’re planning to do when you convert to mobile. Is it just going to be a single mobile stylesheet, or multiple stylesheets with responsive design, or a completely new codebase? Because obviously each of those creates a different amount of work – so if all you’re going to do is put a simple skin on the existing page structure then it’s worth doing for a lot less than 8% of your visitors, whereas if you’re creating an entirely new template and structure then it may be worth holding fire.

You also need to look at (a) if there is any suppressed/latent demand that you’re not seeing because the site doesn’t work properly on mobiles, and (b) whether a mobile site is actually necessary.

First - suppressed demand. It’s been a common refrain of web designers throughout the ages that “I don’t need to cater for <x> because nobody with <x> ever comes to my site”, whether <x> is a particular browser, or visual impairment, or whatever else. And no, if your site doesn’t work properly for Netscape then you won’t see many Netscape hits in your logs because they won’t get beyond the first page, and they won’t come back … but that doesn’t mean they didn’t try. How sure are you that people don’t actually want to use your site on their mobiles, but are being held back because they can’t?

Second - do you need a mobile site at all? You don’t need a particularly hi-tech phone to be able to read and interact with any standard website these days. My phone is about as basic as a smartphone gets, and I can still (for example), do more or less everything on these forums that I want to – read, write, moderate – without there being any concession to mobile in the site. Sure, for some sites like Facebook and Twitter that go overboard with Javascript and fancy stuff like that, they eat my phone battery for breakfast so I’m very glad to use their mobile versions, which are much lighter, but apart from that I mostly look at “full size” websites.[/font]