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As smartphones and tablets grow in popularity, mobile optimization
is something libraries and nonprofits should pay close attention to in
the coming year. Responsive web design (also known as mobile optimization)
refers to designing a site to provide an optimal viewing experience across a
wide range of devices.
Why should mobile be part of libraries and nonprofits' game plan?
Multiple studies have found that more people are accessing the web from a
mobile device. Furthermore, smartphone
sales skyrocketed last year while PC sales are expected
to decline in 2013.
According to the Pew
Internet & American Life Project Mobile Connections to Libraries study,
13 percent of patrons have visited a library website or accessed library services via a
mobile device. This number has doubled from a Pew 2009 survey, which found that
6 percent of Americans 16 and older had used a mobile device to connect to a library
While this is a significant increase, 13 percent still seems pretty low
given the surge in smartphone and tablet ownership. It begs the question: Why
aren't more patrons accessing library sites on their mobile devices? The problem
could be that many library websites are simply not designed with these devices
Incorporating responsive web design into your overall website
planning will give it a longer "shelf life" on the Internet. The idea
is that a website can detect what device it is being viewed on and
automatically render itself — regardless of whether it's being viewed on a
10-inch tablet or a 3.5-inch smartphone display.
The speakers at The Chronicle of Philanthropy's Nonprofit
Technology Forecast for 2013, held in January, all emphasized the
importance of responsive design for nonprofits this year.
"Responsive design is a natural companion to all the data
about mobile devices increasing," said Amy Sample Ward, current membership director of NTEN and formerly of TechSoup Global.
2013 the "year of responsive web." Mashable founder Pete Cashmore writes,
"Given the rapid adoption of tablets and
smartphones — and the fact that users currently seem to prefer reading their
news on the mobile web rather than in apps — I think it's inevitable that 2013
will be the year that responsive design takes off."
Cashmore's point is that a responsive web design
is the easiest way to reach an audience across multiple devices. For
nonprofits, that means new donors or volunteers. For libraries, it is the most
efficient way to reach patrons — regardless of how they're accessing the web.
Apps are still an important component in reaching and serving
mobile audiences. However, apps can be expensive to develop, and if they aren't
designed well, people will be less likely to use them. If your organization is determining
your mobile strategy, your first priority should be ensuring that your website
is optimized for mobile devices.
That said, a mobile app can be a great way to offer a service or
resource that isn't part of your
organization or library's website. For example, the Orange County Public
Library's Shake It! app is a fun way to discover what's in the library's
Whether you're just starting a mobile plan or launching your
latest app, you can find a variety of resources from the TechSoup Global
Network as well as other trusted nonprofit and library sites.
Image: Student Using Phone in Library, Shutterstock.
Ginny Mies is a Content Curator at TechSoup Global.