The number of consumers who use their mobile devices to access the Internet is growing, but many mobile sites are not particularly mobile-friendly.
According to Yankee Group, 31% of phone-owning customers are using their phones to access the Web at least once a month. However, in its second evaluation of 27 popular mobile sites, the average score (on a scale of 100) was 52.
Carl Howe, director of Yankee Group and author of the company's "Best of the Anywhere Web 2009," says: "The average has not gone up. But there are a few standouts."
The most common usage of mobile Web sites is news, search and weather. Perhaps not surprisingly, two of the best mobile sites are Yahoo and Google, Howe says. Both are able to adapt to the device through which people are accessing the Internet and optimize the content and appearance to it.
They also present enough information to be valuable to consumers without overwhelming them. Plus, Google uses location technology to further tailor searches -- which is of value to users, Howe says.
The report also cites Major League Baseball's MLB.com as a good example of tailoring content to the mobile device. Many mobile sites in the sports category tend to overwhelm users with information that is not easily readable or understandable on the Web.
Howe says there are lessons here for marketers.
First, it's worth the investment to set up device detection on mobile Web sites for an optimal user experience. "It's not simple, and it's not easy, and it takes a lot of testing. But it says I care about what you as the consumer sees," he says.
He also suggests using location awareness technology and setting up content to accept myriad mobile Web addresses, as well as hiring a mobile design specialist to help create the site.
Bottom line: design matters. "Our prediction is that more people will be browsing from mobile devices than from their desktops. If you want to interact with them, you've got to figure it out."