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Mark Claypool uses real-life examples of body shop websites to describe how to make them smartphone-friendly – and why it’s important.
Ever try to see a website from a smartphone? The type is usually so small you can’t read it. So you blow it up bigger so you can read it, but then what happens? If you’ve ever done this, you know the answer…you pinch, you squint, you scroll left and right and up and down to read everything or see the navigation buttons. What a hassle! There must be a better way…and there is: a mobile version of your website.
A mobile version of a website is simplified for the smaller screens of mobile phones. For the collision repair industry, less is more for a regular, desktop/laptop website. The public usually only looks at an average of 1.7 pages on a body shop website. For mobile phones, even less than this is much more. When the public lands on your website with a mobile phone and the web server recognizes that it’s a mobile device, it switches over to the mobile version (if you have one). This should have your “calls to action” at the very top, such as your phone number, directions button and maybe even “request an estimate/appointment” features. Navigation buttons should be arranged vertically for maximum effectiveness.
Check out the mobile version of Erie-LaSalle Body Shop’s website on the right. Compare it to their PC version (www.erielasallebodyshop.com) above. Take a look at it from both your computer and your smartphone. From a branding perspective, it matches nicely, and that’s important. The mobile version fits a smartphone’s screen without having to scroll at all. The phone number is just a “tap” away, followed by the “Contact Us” button, “Request an Appointment,” “Repair Status” and “Directions” buttons. At the bottom right, there’s a navigation button people can tap to see the actual full site if they’re so inclined, but most will likely just click on the phone number or directions.
Another example of an effective mobile version of a body shop website can be found at www.crash1collision.com (Tom Palermo’s CRASH1 in Crystal Lake, Ill.) – see next page.
Once again, all the important things are just a tap away. You can tap over the phone number and it automatically brings that number up for you to call. You can tap on the “Estimate” button and it brings up a form that can be filled out and submitted to the shop for follow-up. Notice the link to their Facebook page and to their full site at the bottom. There’s no scrolling; making it crisp, clean and effective for the mobile devices that land on this page.
Mobile sites need to be simple with few graphics. Why? Because even at 3G and 4G speeds, load times can bog things down, taking longer to show the screen than most mobile phone users are willing to put up with. They’ll just back out and go somewhere else.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Your mobile site might display just fine on your smartphone, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will be properly identified and processed by search engine algorithms. True SEO experts will know how to optimize your mobile site so that it will have the best opportunity to rank well. Be sure to have unique content on the site too, not just stuff copied from your desktop site. As I’ve stated several times before in past “Web Presence Management” columns, search engines frown upon duplicate content, and this can hurt your potential to rank well when someone searches for the services you provide.
Mobile browsers differ from your standard Internet Explorer, Firefox or Google Chrome. If you have Flash on your main site, it won’t show up on iPhones or iPads, and it may not show up on other devices either. So developers need to make sure to conform to the universal standards set forth by W3C’s mobile web initiatives found at http://www.w3.org/Mobile/.
Make It Easy
Remember that visitors to your site who use their mobile phones expect something different than having to navigate through a full site. Make it easy for them or they’ll go away, never to be heard from again. Give them the information they need up front and center. Direct their actions by giving them the key things you want to highlight at the very top. Give them your phone number that they can simply tap on to call you. Give them easy access to your address and directions. Provide a form they can fill out so they can submit their information to you, then follow up promptly so you can try to close the deal and get their car in your shop. After all, that’s what it’s all about.
BSB Contributing Editor Mark Claypool has nearly 30 years of experience in workforce development, business/education partnerships, apprenticeships and web presence management. He’s the CEO of Optima Automotive (optimaautomotive.com), which provides website design, development, search engine optimization (SEO) services and social media management services. He’s also the director of business development for Metro Paint Supplies in Chicago. His work history includes vice president of VeriFacts Automotive, founder of Mentors At Work (now a division of VeriFacts), executive director of the I-CAR Education Foundation and the NABC, co-founder of the Collision Industry Foundation and national director of development for SkillsUSA. He served, on a volunteer basis, as the SkillsUSA World Team Leader for the WorldSkills Championships.