There's no question that the mobile web is a disruptive, ever-changing landscape.
In the beginning, publishers and brands rushed to launch simple mobile templates that were practical and predictable; it wasn't a priority because few users saw the need for web-enabled phones. Then we saw a boom of different "smart" devices, screen sizes, resolutions, browsers, input modes, preferences, and network speeds that altered the way users consumed content.
Now, with mobile on pace to overtake desktop usage, mobile sites should be viewed as the primary vehicle through which users will consume content from now on. This means that anyone with a website can no longer ignore the need for a mobile site -- and they are quickly realizing that it can be (and often is) a separate and equally expensive project as a desktop site. There are many more factors to consider, and the speed of mobile web innovation means today's solution can quickly become outdated.
The challenge of keeping pace with mobile web innovation has created what is now called "responsive web design," a term coined by A List Apart. It refers to a growing effort to make online media more nimble and adaptive in nature. Rather than designing for specific device specifications, it encourages a forward-looking "design for the ebb and flow of things." As Ethan Marcotte writes:
"[T]he landscape is shifting, perhaps more quickly than we might like. Mobile browsing is expected to outpace desktop-based access within three to five years. Two of the three dominant video game consoles have web browsers (and one of them is quite excellent). We're designing for mice and keyboards, for T9 keypads, for handheld game controllers, for touch interfaces. In short, we're faced with a greater number of devices, input modes, and browsers than ever before."
Indeed, it's even no longer enough to have one regular website and one mobile website. Publications have to think about the desired user experience in an overarching way for all of their readers, and then cater that experience based on the device used to view that publication. It's a tall order, but really the only way to keep pace with the myriad browsers and devices we see enter the market each year.
Custom mobile websites that allow for a more flexible web experience are the best option, but like many "best" options, they can be incredibly expensive. According to web design agency Moto Interactive, an "entirely web specific" version of a content-based website can be as much as $10,000 in overall design fees. However, if the mobile site is custom, it could be double that price, depending on how much optimization is necessary.
For this category of publishers, a mobile-specific site is not just a matter of recoding what's already there simply to show "better." A bespoke site will have a mobile-specific strategy that requires time and a thoughtful framework. Invest in building a foundational publication with a "look" that may be more or less rich depending on the device viewing it, but with fundamentals that are identical for publication, management, and user experience.
The good news is that once you've invested in launching a top-notch, responsive mobile site, there are ways to recoup the investment.
Keep your advertising as innovative and fresh as your new mobile site. The key to this is ensuring high CPM rates for your mobile inventory.
Here are four things to keep in mind as you plan for monetization: