Lawn Care Marketing Using Mobile Websites
What is a mobile website?
According to Wikipedia, it is described as “the use of browser-based Internet services, from a handheld mobile device, such as a smartphone, a feature phone, or a tablet computer, connected to a mobile network or other wireless network.”
In short, a mobile website is an app that allows online websites to be viewed on mobile devices – anytime, anywhere.
Being mobile optimized for mobile is critical to your lawn care marketing. Having a mobile website isn’t just a good suggestion for business owners today; it’s a must unless your goal is to lose customers by the day. Nearly all business owners have realized by this point just how important the Internet is to their business – and many have already gone to great lengths to promote the blogs on their landscaping website, take full advantage of SEO opportunities, and in many cases even build a full e-commerce website. Long gone are the days of getting customers using just lawn care flyers!
But while that main website is definitely a huge source of revenue, there’s another website that you could be missing, and that could be even more important than your main website, maybe even more important than your landscaping business cards.
Creating their very own mobile website is an intimidating thing to many lawn service business owners, because they think that they’ll need an extensive knowledge of HTML coding and programming know-how. That may be true, depending on the type of mobile website that you’re looking to create for your users and how original you’d like your mobile website to be.
But no matter how complicated, or how basic, you want to make it, this report is the guide that will show you how.
Here you’ll find everything from the biggest challenges you’ll face, how to overcome them, a breakdown of the different options that are available, and the easiest way to get those options.
Internet consumers don’t care whether you’re a techie genius or try to avoid computers at all costs. They want an local contractor shopping experience that they can get to no matter where they are, and what device they’re using to get there.
Mobile Website Challenges
Everything has its own challenges; and it would be unfair to say that building a mobile website is without its own. If you’re a lawn care business owner and you don’t already have your mobile website up and running, you may already be facing some of these challenges – even if it’s just not having the confidence to learn about the process and actually get to building your mobile site.
Not having the confidence in one’s own capabilities is one of the most common challenges faced when business owners want to create a mobile-friendly website.
This is an easy challenge that’s easy to overcome, as are the other biggest obstacles that commonly stand in a business owner’s way.
Here’s a breakdown of the biggest challenges, and how you can overcome them if they’re what’s standing in your way of unrealized profits.
Challenge: Lack of confidence and know-how
While these may seem like two of the biggest obstacles, they go hand in hand. A lawn service owner might not know the first thing about creating a website, let alone one that can be viewed on smartphones and mobile devices. This lack of know-how leads to them thinking that they are incompetent and incapable of building their own site and so, they don’t even bother.
As a result of this lack of confidence their business suffers, because more people are using mobile browsers more and more often.
Solution: It’s easy to say that the obvious solution is to have faith in yourself!
Yes, of course that’s a great answer, and a philosophy you should always carry it as a business owner. And, if it’s simply a basic mobile website that you’re looking for, it’s also one that you should take with you when embarking on mobile website creation.
But when it comes to creating a more complex mobile website, the simple truth is that sometimes, a lawn business owner simply can’t do it. They don’t have the time to create the site, they don’t have the time to research how to do it, and they don’t have the time to maintain it.
Even this should not shatter one’s confidence, as there are many landscape marketing consultants that do this every day, and have built a business around helping business owners create websites – mobile and otherwise.
When it comes to building a hugely complex e-commerce site with lots of content and lots of specialty plugins, coding and design options, all you as the business owner need to worry about is hiring the right one.
Challenge: Not knowing that your business needs a mobile website
While just about every landscape maintenance business owner today knows just how important it is to have a website for their customers to visit, many still aren’t aware of the unrealized potential they are missing out on by not having a mobile website.
Many business owners don’t even know what a mobile website is.
This is a huge problem, and one of the biggest when it comes to this type of business practice. When you don’t know of the practice, you can’t put it into place.
Solution: You’re already solving the problem!
By simply doing your research in reading this guide to building your mobile website, you’re already learning how important it is to have one. Consider some of these stats and it will only reinforce why your business so badly needs a mobile website:
- “In the last few years, mobile search increased by 500%.” – Google
- “9 out of 10 mobile searchers have taken action as a result of a smartphone search.” – Google
- “Email activity on mobile devices accounts for 42% of US mobile Internet time.” – The Nielsen Company
- First, let’s look at the different types of mobile websites that you can have. From there, you’ll be able to determine what tools you need to get started. Those resources could be anything as simple as a template, or as expansive as a marketing consultant, or team of them!
Creating Mobile Websites
When you first start looking at becoming part of the Mobile web, you might be overwhelmed at the knowledge of coding and software that you’ll need to have, or the prices that some mobile web hosting companies charge to run a mobile site from their network. Or, you might be alarmed at how little there is out there, knowing that your mobile site requires more than what you’re seeing offered.
This is because there is a huge range of the different types of mobile websites you can have, and thousands of ways to get about getting the one that’s right for you.
To narrow down your choices, you first need to know the different types of mobile websites, and see which one is best suited for your business.
Custom-built mobile platform
This is the Rolls Royce of mobile platforms and its best suited for a mobile web app that’s specifically dedicated for the product. With these platforms, a business owner can have a mobile website that’s completely different from anything else that’s out there, helping them to brand themselves better and give their customers something that’s completely unique.
While users will definitely get the most out of this product, and it will help set the business apart from the crowd, this is also a very expensive option for mobile websites.
Because of this, these platforms are generally only used by huge online companies such as Facebook and LinkedIn. Innova 2000 and Fiddlefly are two of the most popular choices in custom-built mobile platforms.
Mobile template or plugin from desktop CMS
Many business owners think that having a mobile template or plugin from desktop CMS is the best option for them because it’s not so huge that you need to spend your entire profit margin on it; yet it’s large enough to display all of the content on your website and all of the content on your blog.
Both of these things are true, however running your mobile site through this type of platform has its downfalls.
The biggest one is that it will be an unpleasant experience for the user. These sites are hard to navigate, their images appear to be too large, the text runs on and on, and the site simply takes way too long to load on a mobile device.
In addition to this, it’s also impossible to optimize these sites for a touch screen – which so many mobile devices are today.
Transcoding is another type of mobile website that many business owners are immediately drawn to, because it has a number of benefits that seem appealing at first; two of them are the fact that you can build your website in just one or two minutes, and that you only need to visit one place when you update your content.
However, this is a type of mobile site that every business owner should try to avoid.
Sites that rely on transcoding are some of the ugliest mobile websites you could make, and they break constantly.
Even though you can be up and running in no time flat, you’ll still need to have an entire technical team ready to make sure that everything runs perfectly, and that nothing falls out of place at any time. If it does, your mobile website will shut down and won’t function or be viewed properly.
Some of the largest corporations in the world, especially those that rely heavily on Internet users, will design their mobile landscaping website on a responsive design platform. Responsive design mobile websites cost the very most that you can pay for a mobile site, and they’re also some of the most difficult to maintain.
Planning and developing this type of site can take up to six months or even a year; and the sites usually require a complex content management system in which each page for the site will have different layout templates.
In exchange for the complexity of the site, the unique experience your users will get out of it, and the fact that these sites will basically do everything for you, you’ll pay an extremely high price in order to get it from a web host.
DIY template-driven mobile CMS
This is usually the best option for business owners, especially those that are very ambitious and want to build and maintain the site themselves.
These templates are easy to download, easy to set up, and easy to maintain – and there is usually no coding or software knowledge required.
While these templates are generally enough for the small to medium-sized business owner, they are still just a template – meaning that there’s no guarantee that your mobile site will be 100% unique.
Hybrid mobile website
Just like a hybrid car that uses both fuel and battery power, a hybrid mobile website is a mobile site that uses a little bit of one solution, and a little bit of another.
Maybe you want your mobile website to be designed on a template so that it’s easy to manage and update; but you also want different elements incorporated into it that are customized and help brand your business.
The process of combining two different options of web hosting and running a mobile web site can be complicated in and of itself and it’s usually wisest for business owners interested in this option to hire a landscape marketing consultant that can take over the task for them. However, many business owners find that because no one solution is perfectly tailored to them, this is the best option.
Even a hybrid solution though allows the business owner to get their hands right on their site whenever they want and change it and update it as they see fit.
For this reason, when business owners choose the hybrid solution they still must have a starting point of their own before they hand it off to their marketing consultant; or to add to the consultant’s work. The easiest option, and the one that most business owners find they have the most time for is the DIY template.
Downloading and installing templates are easy and there are thousands of different templates on the Web that you can choose from.
First, you must know which kind of template you want to use.
Types of Mobile Templates
When it comes to choosing what kind of template you’re going to use for your lawn services’ mobile site, the choice comes down to what so much does online today – do you want to have a template that you can have in your hand (either literally through software, or virtually with the software downloaded onto your computer,) or do you want to do it all “on the cloud?”
The answer to this will determine which type of mobile template you use for your site, and how you use them as well.
Downloadable mobile templates
Also just like anything else, templates that you either download or obtain through actual disc software (although these are becoming fewer and far between,) have both advantages and disadvantages. While you can find free downloadable templates, these generally aren’t worth your time or your effort – and they’re definitely not worth your visitor’s.
Paying for them can cost $50 and upwards, but once you purchase it, it’s bought and paid for. You can then make as many changes as you want, and those changes can be just about anything you want.
The biggest disadvantage that business owners find with these kinds of templates is not the price, but rather the fact that the onus falls completely on them for managing their own hosting and domain name.
For those that are already looking to use a template in conjunction with a marketing consultant though, even this is not usually a problem.
After purchasing a downloadable mobile template, the software will typically guide you through step-by-step how to set it up, install it, and test it. The instructions for most are very easy to understand, even for those that have little technical knowledge, but all of them are different.
Because of this, it’s best to research the top downloadable mobile templates, find out which one is best for you and will give you the ultimate website you’re looking for.
Some of the most popular downloadable mobile websites are:
- Mee Templates
- Template Monster
- Signum Mobile
- Esepina Mobile
Cloud-based mobile templates
With a cloud-based mobile template, there is nothing to download and anytime you want to make changes you simply log onto the company’s server and make them. The control panels that come with cloud-based templates are very easy to manage and use, and with no programming skills required.
Because you will typically be using a server that is also hosting several other mobile websites, you will have more restrictions placed on what you can do with these templates, and your website won’t be as customized.
However, you can still get a great-looking site that is fully functional, and that doesn’t require a ton of extra time and effort on your part.
There aren’t as many cloud-based templates as there are downloadable ones, but Google Sites and Onbile are two popular ones.
Creating a Mobile Website Using Onbile
Let’s say you’ve chosen to create a mobile website and you’ve chosen to use a cloud-based template to do it. Now you just need a plan of action so that you can go ahead and do it.
Here is astep-by-step plan that will outline fully how to create a mobile website using Onbile.
The entire process should take about twenty minutes.
Visit www.onbile.com/sign-up and create an account. This is one of the easiest parts as you only need an email address, a username, and a password. Agree to their terms of service, and click on “Create your Onbile account” and you’re done. You can even connect to your account through Facebook, Twitter, and Google +.
Once you’ve created your account you will be taken to the home page. There you will find a button that says “Click now.”
From there you’ll be given a list of templates; each will be described with a full picture and layout design of the site to help you make the best decision possible, and give you the best idea of what your site will look like.
Once you’ve chosen the basic layout you’ll then be given a choice of colors that you can use. Select the one you want, but don’t worry about it too much if you’re not fully sold on one specific – you can always go back and change it later.
After choosing your color, Onbile then gives you a list of categories for your mobile website; and this feature is designed specifically towards businesses.
When choosing these, do consider all of the categories and choose the ones that best describe your business. Yes, you can choose more than one.
And while you do want to carefully look at each one, again don’t worry too much about your website accidentally falling into the wrong category. This too, is something you can always go back and change.
Next comes the part where you customize your site. Here you’ll be able to look at all the different image galleries, e-commerce templates, landing pages, and more that Onbile has to offer.
Once you’ve chosen from the ones you like, the next step is to customize it even further to better brand your business. You’ll be able to choose from different typographies and logotypes that will all clearly identify your business, and give users of your mobile website the feeling that they have “arrived.”
In this section you can upload your company’s logo, or create one using the colors and typographies available.
Go through each tab carefully while customizing your site. There are different areas to manage different sections of the site, use descriptions, and different keywords that will help you with your SEO objectives. Go through each section very carefully, editing contents and adding new pages.
Take advantage of all the different menu sections, footer sections and every area of the site – if it’s there, you can create it and change it! Just remember that it’s easy to get carried away, and that’s the exact thing you don’t want to do when creating a mobile website.
You need to keep the amount of content down, the space of the site low, and keep it as concise as possible. Create a beautiful site, but don’t overdo it.
Okay, you’re done – creating your site, at least. But does it work? That’s the thing that matters. Once you’ve finished all of your changes and customizations, you’ll be able to view it, through the button that says “View.”!
There it is, your own mobile website, all laid out just the way you want it. But is it? Don’t just look at things such as the design and the layout; is everything exactly right? Is all your contact information up, and accurate? Is everything spelled correctly?
Go through every item, read everything carefully, all while noting how easily it is to navigate and how good the site feels while moving around in it.
Once that’s all settled, you’re then ready for your mobile website to go live!
After proofreading, and proofreading again, and deciding that everything’s perfect, click on “Publish.”
(If you’re not quite happy with it at this point, but can’t work on the template any more for the time being, skip to the next step.)
If you’re done with the site, it is at this point in Onbile that you can then choose your plan. Pick your plan, identify your domain name (the name of your website,) and then choose your preferred payment method.
If you need to gather more information before you can proceed with creating your website, or you just need to get to something else, you can save your work without losing everything and having to start all over again. Choose the “Save and edit later” option and all of your hard work will still be there when you come back.
Once packages and payment options have been settled, Onbile will then provide you with a code. This is the redirect code that detects when visitors to your site are using a mobile device, and this code redirects them the mobile version of your website.
Write this code down and place it into your main website – you’ll find the right place to enter it just above where it says “HEAD.”
That’s it, you’re really all done! Well, there is one more thing to do.
Even though you’ve tested your website while inside of Onbile to make sure that everything’s just the way you want it, you still need to test it again, outside of Onbile, to make sure that it is in fact working properly.
In order to do this, ask friends or family to ask a couple of smartphones, preferably of different kinds (Blackberry, iPhone, etc.) Using the browser, hop on over to your website and see if it’s what you just created.
If so, congratulations! Your mobile website has been created and you’ll now start realizing all the more profits because of it. If not, you need to go back and fix what you don’t like.
Remember, this is a step-by-step outline of how to create a mobile website using an Onbile template and templates from other providers may work slightly differently – this guideline gives you a good idea of the things you’ll be facing.
And remember, creating this DIY template is really just a starting point if you intend to create a hugely customized website that really takes the experience to the next level for the user. In order to do that, you’ll need to look into creating a hybrid site – a site that is part DIY template/part purely customization.
Creating a hybrid site is not easy, and it takes much more technical skill and know-how than simply creating a template.
In the next sections we’ll look at the few prerequisites you’ll need for creating a hybrid site; as well as the tools you’ll need to create a responsive site – that Rolls Royce of sites that are typically only used by the very biggest companies and websites.
Creating Hybrid and Responsive Mobile Websites
When you really need to take your mobile website to the next level and are relying on something much more than just a template to keep visitors happy, you might start to think about using a hybrid or responsive mobile websites.
Responsive mobile websites are sites that are completely customized and can essentially, be made to whatever the site owner wants it. These sites are also generally able to handle much more traffic and have more useful functions, typically. Hybrid mobile websites are the bridge between templates and responsive websites – they are a combination of both.
When entering the world of hybrid and responsive mobile websites, it’s best to tread very carefully. Unless you have an extensive background and knowledge in coding, programming, and other technical knowledge, it’s best to leave both of these types to the professionals.
These sites are definitely worth the time and investment, but even researching how to do it can be overwhelming and extremely confusing to the business owner.
To give a very brief description of how each is done, we’ve outlined some of the tools and resources you might need to create both a hybrid website, and a responsive website. Just like the templates, these are only the most popular and there are many different types of software, programs and plugins you can use for both types of sites.
Researching all of them can also be confusing; but don’t be concerned if that’s the case. This is why this is the time to call in the professionals.
Here are some of the tools they may use when creating either type of site:
- WebSphere Portlet Factory next Beta 2 or later;
- WAS Community Edition
- WebSphere Application Server
- Android SDK and ADT Plug-in for Eclipse
- PhoneGap version 0.9.4 or later
All of the above are needed to create just one hybrid mobile website using PhoneGap and IBM WebSphere Portlet Factory.
Responsive websites are the most complex of them all, requiring many more resources than other kind of mobile website. Because of this the list of the different applications, plugins, and software you can use to build your site is nearly endless.
Here are some of the 13 most popular:
- Adaptive Images
- mediaQuery Bookmarklet
- Mobile Boilerplate
- 320 and Up
- Bootstrap, from Twitter
- Golden Grid System
- Adobe Shadow
Confused yet by all the different options you have when creating a responsive website? And these are just 13 out of thousands!
Don’t worry, a good marketing consultant will not only be familiar with all of these, but be able to talk about them for hours and suggest which ones would work best for your site.
Tips for Success
You’ve learned just about everything there is to know about building a mobile website – or at least enough to know how to talk to the professionals when they take over the job for you.
Now, just a few quick tips to keep in mind before you go on your designing way:
- You want your mobile website to be detected by as many browsers as possible.Make sure you have a device installed that will not only pick your site up on many different browsers, but that will also adjust the screen and experience to each individual browser.
- Know the memory limitations of the different devices on the market (yes, this too requires a constant effort in keeping up with the different types of smartphones on the market.)Always make sure that your page doesn’t take up more memory than any one device can handle so it will display properly on any smartphone.
- Resist the urge to turn text into pictures. While this does sometimes make it easier to arrange it in the layout and play with it exactly the way you want, it also takes even more time to load because now, it’s a picture file instead of a text file. Keep text as text, and pictures as pictures. It really is as simple as that.
- For the same reason, use simple text navigation links when possible instead of large images of arrows, push-buttons, or any other cute icons you think might enhance your site.These too will only take longer to load; and your users will much better appreciate a faster experience than they do kitschy images.
- There are some buttons and images that you want to keep, and those are the ones of the social networks.Throw up a Twitter button, Facebook button, Google + button, and a button to any other social networking site you can think of. This helps you connect with people, and that’s all you’re really trying to do anyway.
- Keep your URLs as short as possible, as they’re easier for people to remember and navigate towards.If the domain name is the same as the one you’re using for your main site, make sure that you have a header code or an online Web URL so that mobile users can be redirected to the mobile site.
- Know that your mobile website is a long-term project that is going to need constant care and updating.Yes you may have already created it, but the online world changes all the time, and your business probably does, too. Because of that, you can’t think of your mobile site as something that’s been “checked off” your to-do list but instead, something that’s going to appear on it every week.
- Always remember that while your mobile site is helping you increase business, it’s really there for the users and for the visitors to benefit from.And, even if you think you’ve created the perfect mobile website, you won’t really know until you find out if it’s benefiting them. Take a quick poll, on your main site or mobile site, Facebook page, or Twitter account, and ask them to check out the site and see if they like it.
- Always welcome suggestions for improvement, and always try to tweak the site when possible.
What to Avoid with Your Mobile Website
Unfortunately, it’s easy to get discouraged when creating a mobile website because there are many common mistakes that business owners often fall into. Know what they are ahead of time, and how to avoid them, and you can ensure that not only will your site be a success, but also that you’ll avoid a lot of the time-consuming pitfalls along the way.
Making content and pages far too long.
Remember, this is a mobile website. Not only do your visitors want you to keep it short and sweet, but this is all your website is probably capable of. Keep your mobile pages between 70-100 words, and it will actually function like a mobile site should.
Not automatically updating the mobile website when the main website changes.
People think that their main site is visited more than their mobile site, so they don’t bother to update the mobile version nearly as often. As mobile usage only continues to increase, this is a mistake and one that can be easily avoided. Set up a direct content feed from your desktop website to your mobile website through RSS or XML to output structured data.
Using too many images that are too large.
Covered briefly in the “tips” section, this one is pretty self-explanatory. Don’t do it; it will only slow down your site.
Remember that when people visit your mobile site, they’re going to be using much smaller screens and may not want to hit a tiny button all the time in order to get to where they want to go. Know your audience, consider what they’re using when on your site, and optimize it so that it’s easy for them.
Jumping into “Mobile First,” especially for a first site.
“Mobile first” has become a term used to describe the idea that landscaping business owners should create a mobile site even before creating their main site, simply because mobile usage is becoming so popular. But while it’s true that more and more users are using mobile devices on the Web, desktop websites still very much have their place and should not be ignored.
If you already have a website for your business, it’s great to use this as a “beginner’s course” into the mobile Web. And if you are already running several sites and mobile sites for your business and now want to create one “mobile first,” it could be a great idea. But if this is your first venture into the mobile Web, create a main site first, and get help with the mobile one.
That’s it. You’re armed with everything you need to get started in the mobile Web and get your first (or fifth) mobile website up and running. If you’re anxious to conquer this world yourself but haven’t yet made the foray into it, start with a DIY template alone, knowing that you can always build onto it and develop it further in the future.
If you already know that you’re going to need more than just a simple template, or you know that you’re going to need help setting that up too, call a marketing consultant as soon as possible. They’ll be able to get your mobile site up in no time, and they’ll maintain it for you afterwards, too!