Squarespace Website Quick-Start Webinar: Free. Next Thursday.

If you’ve been challenged getting a website done or you think they’re too expensive, I have some good news for you.

Next Thursday, December 17th at 10am PT / 1pm ET, I will present short 15-minute webinar on why I’m preferring Squarespace websites for small businesses. During this presentation, I will concisely share my knowledge and insights about why most of my clients are now benefiting from the streamlined production, stress-free hosting, elegant templates, built-in mobile-friendliness and other benefits of the Squarespace online website software platform. Click here to register or learn more.

Squarespace Website WebinarMy Mission is To Help You Get a Grip on the High Performance, Low Cost Squarespace Website Software That I’ve Come to Know & Love

If you’re interested in learning more about how Squarespace and/or if you think this information might help you to have a more elegant website and an expanded web presence more quickly than you may have thought possible, I would love to help you by sharing what I’ve learned in the hope that you will benefit. I promise to quickly and clearly explain why this is the website development strategy (Squarespace) that I’m recommending these days.

Squarespace has really changed things at ComBridges recently because now, thanks to the ease of use of this platform, I’m able to do websites a lot less expensively; and, it’s more empowering for the clients to be able to make their own website changes and updates. It also solves the today’s requirement that everything on the web and in email be mobile-friendly. Squarespace does that “out of the box” will ALL of its modern templates. My clients also like that they don’t have to worry about hosting and the associated technical headaches… and on and on.

Bottom line, our clients are happy, and you might be interested in learning more about why this is working so well. Click here now to learn more.

This Is What I Do

As many of you know, I am an online marketing mentor with a real passion for connecting the dots for small businesses. I call it spanning the Grand Canyon gap between people and technology. One of the biggest things that’s happened to me in my business in the last or year or so is doing more websites using Squarespace rather than WordPress.

All the information about this online event is here on this page, including a personal video invitation and bullets that explain more about what I’ll be talking about.

I hope to see you there.

When you click this link you will see more detailed information and be able to register. The live session includes a chat-powered Q&A. The recording is included when you register.

Blab: The New Social Video Streaming Platform ROCKS!

This is a quickie post to let you know about a surprisingly good new video streaming conversation platform called Blab. I just did my first Blab session and had 39 viewers from around the world. The recorded segment is embedded below. I was joined on-screen by video participants from Brazil, Argentina, and Philadelphia. 😉

I think this application is more user-friendly for multi-user video than anything I’ve seen (Spreecast, Google Hangouts, Skype, etc.) It is also way better than Periscope or Meerkat because it’s two-way. Those video streaming tools are really only one-way.

Blab now has a mobile app as well as desktop. And, now that I think about it, it’s not only two-way, it’s up to four-way, four simultaneous video participants. And that’s nicely complemented by a fully functional chat stream where you can paste URL’s and animated GIF’s as well as very nice Twitter integration.

One of the people who jumped in, Richard Berger, had this to say about our conversation:

[testimonial author=”Richard Berger, English Teacher”]”In just those few minutes my awareness of new social media/video streaming/website development was exploded, and now you got me “back at the drawing board”, thinking of applications for my teaching work. Thanks again!”[/testimonial]

Here’s my first session which was a spontaneous “Ask Me Anything” about websites, social media marketing, video, etc. Pretty dang fun! Please click “Watch Now” button on the image below to watch this Blab session, and feel free to scroll ahead to see the multiple participants. And, please let me know what you think. And stay tuned for a special Blab next week with Twitter Power author, Joel Comm, at 4pm PT on Friday, August 28th. Thanks!

Major Website Design Learning: Squarespace Makes It Fun Again

Our new Squarespace website design options—both a done-with-you process and lower priced projects—have taught me important lessons while also helping me to help clients better and to enjoy my work more.

[testimonial author=”Will Lopes, owner, William Patrick Design Builders”]”The future of website design is here! Squarespace in the able hands of Jon Leland was a revelation. He guided me through a re-design more quickly, elegantly and affordably than I imagined possible. Now, I have a modern, good-looking, mobile-friendly website; AND it’s on a platform that empowers me to have FUN evolving it by myself. I couldn’t recommend Jon’s unique approach more highly.”[/testimonial]

william-patrick-buildersI think the testimonial above says a ton!

As I’ve continued to experiment with Squarespace as a more cost effective and easier to use platform (vs. WordPress) for small business websites, I’ve not only learned lessons about the need for clarity in differentiating these fresh approaches; but, even more importantly, I’ve uncovered new ways of serving clients that are both better for them and more fun for me.

Not “One Size Fits All”

I recently did a “1-to-1 Get-It-Done” Squarespace website session with Christine Fischer via Skype. She lives in Spain and conducts Truffles Tours there.

While Christine appreciated her experience as “fun” with results that she said are “functional and elegant,” she also gave me some valuable, “constructive feedback.” sitka-servicesShe told me that she wasn’t completely clear when we started that the 1-to-1 Get-It-Done package was just a session and not a complete website project.

I was really glad that I took the time to listen to her feedback and I’ve already incorporated her suggestions by positioning the “1-to-1” offer more distinctly, as she suggested. I explained on the “1-to-1” offer page that this session is a way to build a “foundation” for your website and be empowered to move forward on your own. That much I can promise. A complete website in three hours, I can not promise. 😉

I took that input, updated the offer page and then went a extra step by creating a new 3-column chart that’s now featured on my website’s “Website Design Services” page.

A New Chart to Visualize the Differences

web-design-development-options-chartNow, hopefully, thanks to this chart, people can quickly and easily understand the differences between the various ways that we are now serving up new client websites.

Truthfully, for me, doing this chart was also useful because I’ve been experimenting by developing this offers and they needed to be more clearly articulated.

Now, as these new approaches to website design and development have become successful in terms of completing both sessions and projects (please see our new Squarespace website design portfolio page for examples), and, as I’m seeing 1-to-1 Get-It-Done clients complete their own websites, my whole experience with Squarespace has become more and more satisfying.

In fact, it’s become downright enjoyable!

And that’s the bottom line: I love sharing my expertise and being hands on. Doing these projects and sessions have given me a new way to be helpful and one that is empowering for clients. Yay!

Yes, Squarespace has made web design fun again.

How Small Businesses Can Save $1,000’s on Websites Using Squarespace vs WordPress

Time is Money and So Is the Right Technology

The Truth About Websites-videoframeWhen it’s time for a new website or a redesign, suddenly there are some serious differences to consider when choosing the platform. Specifically, WordPress is no longer a no brainer.

I want what’s best for you, and so I research and test technologies so you don’t have to. Websites are a core component of my business, so I especially stay on top of website design platforms in order to offer you the best options.

“I know that I can count on you 100% to know the latest and greatest marketing communications technologies… You know what’s over-hyped and what’s for real… We trust you to lead us in that way.”
– Randy Haldeman, CEO, Code-N

After a very successful run with WordPress, now—for smaller businesses where simplification can save tons of money, time, and aggravation—I am now recommending Squarespace over WordPress.

I want you to understand why. So, I’m doing Free Webinar on the advantages of Squarespace over WordPress. It’s coming up this Thursday, May 28th at 10am PT. Please click here to register or continue reading. This blog post and the a personal video invitation below—as well as the webinar—include more details.

Free Webinar Registration

The savings for small businesses by using Squarespace rather than WordPress are not only direct costs, but also significant reductions in wasted time and technical hassles. The benefits of Squarespace include beautiful templates that are always responsive, a smaller learning curve, and a more efficient work flow, especially if you don’t want to always be dependent on a web designer or developer. Here’s your video invitation:

The “Done-With-You” Revolution

Plain and simple, Squarespace has helped me to help more people in a way that’s more fun, more efficient and more collaborative. While anyone can use Squarespace in Do-It-Yourself mode—and there’s nothing wrong with that—it has also enabled me to offer 1-to-1 Get-It-Done Websites that are literally one-half the cost of our WordPress customizations (which we still do for larger organizations with more complex needs).

“I’m very pleased with the 1-to-1 Get-It-Done Website session that I did with Jon Leland at ComBridges. In less than the time it takes to play a round of golf, we had my new website designed and published… Prior to this session, I had wasted many hours over a couple of months trying to update my website. I finally reached out to Jon and in just one afternoon, he saved me a ton of time, money and effort.”
— Jim Draper, President, Draper Creative Group

We call this kind of collaboration a Done-With-You service vs the more traditional Done-For-You type of service which takes considerably more time—for both the client and the vendor—as well as more money. Please click here if you want to learn more about how this service works.

How Squarespace is Different & Why This Matters

Squarespace brings together a lot of features that I’ve been looking for in a website design platform, all in one compact, hosted package that provides everything most small businesses need with almost none of the hassle. Some of the features and benefits of Squarespace that I’ll be explaining and showing in more detail during the Free Webinar include:

  • Elegant, beautiful, modern templates that are on a par with the best of WordPress.
  • All templates in the latest version of Squarespace are mobile-friendly and the responsiveness doesn’t break when you customize pages.
  • Because it’s a closed system, maintenance could not be simpler. Upgrades are built in. No plug-ins. No getting hacked. No unexpected expenses.
  • The system is user-friendly so that almost anyone can learn quickly to make their own website updates.
  • Squarespace provides 24×7 support via chat and fast-turnaround email.
  • There are an impressive array of built-in, highly-customizable features including:
    • Response forms
    • Video and audio embeds
    • Animated picture galleries
    • Editable social media icons
    • And more

And all of this is provided without having to research and shop for plug-ins and without needing to worry about possible plug-in conflicts that can be an issue with WordPress when you install and/or upgrade.

If you want to understand these benefits better, I hope you will click here to register for free for the webinar where I will explain all of this and show you as much as possible via on-screen video demos—all in less than a half hour.

Free Webinar Registration

“Who knew that creating a new website could be so fast, easy, affordable and fun? Jon is a master of all things internet, and he brings a warm and enthusiastic spirit of partnership and creativity. If you are looking for help designing a quick new website, look no further.”
— Dara Ackerman, singer-songwriter

Thanks for reading! If you’d like to follow up with me in ways other than the webinar, here are some options:

Google SEO Update: Your Website MUST Be Mobile-Friendly & How Squarespace Might Help

Having Your Website Be Mobile-Friendly Is No Longer Optional

I’ve been writing about how important mobile-friendly websites are for almost two years. Between smartphones and tablets, my website is seeing almost 20% of its traffic come from mobile devices. Industry standard is more like 30% and often more. That should be reason enough to make sure that your site is optimized for “the mobile experience.”Mobile-friendly websites are no longer

However, now, there’s another major reason to address this issue. Google has just announced (in a relatively unprecedented manner, i.e. in advance) that within the new search engine algorithm update that’s coming on April 21st, 2015, “we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal… (and it) will have a significant impact in our search results.” 

In other words, beyond not being user-friendly to mobile browsers, your website will very likely LOSE web traffic if it is not mobile-friendly. And, this change in search results will be most dramatic among those searching and finding your website via mobile devices.

But none of us wants to lose ANY visitors, do we?

Are You Ready for Mobile-Friendliness and Mobile Search?

There is no single approach to having your website become mobile-friendly. And, the bad news is that most approaches add cost and complexity. The exception is turnkey systems like Squarespace.

Overall, your approach to mobile-friendliness will vary depending on your website authoring and delivery platform, and this is a moving target that few small businesses understand.

If you are using WordPress, for example, there are themes that are “responsive” which means their layout varies depending on the width of the device being used to view the site. This is a good thing, and that’s the way that our ComBridges.com website is currently done. It works, but there can be complications. For example, when you update content or want to make layout changes of almost any kind, you must consider how those changes will look in mobile. It’s an easy thing to overlook, but if you are committed to WordPress, then for many small businesses, responsive is the way to go.

Another approach is to build your website with “mobile first” within the architecture of its construction using CSS components from the ground up (including a custom theme if you are using WordPress). For example, I’m currently supervising design and production of a website pro bono for a large non-profit and I’m very pleased with the results of this approach. It looks great on mobile and on the desktop, but this approach does add significantly to the cost of the site. And, it’s really only viable for new websites or a complete redesign. Because of their limited resources, few small businesses want to make that kind of investment.

And, some businesses actually do a separate version of their website for mobile viewers, sometimes using a mobile plug-in and sometimes a separate app. While this can optimize “the mobile experience,” this also means maintaining a separate version of the site. So, every time you do an update of any magnitude, you have to update the mobile version; thus, the cost for maintaining this kind of website increases. Again, not so good for small businesses with limited resources.

But, there is a low cost solution that is as bullet-proof as any technology will allow…

Squarespace to the Rescue

Recently, I’ve been doing more and more websites for small businesses using Squarespace. I like the simplicity of the system, the elegance of the templates, and now, mobile-friendliness is another key benefit. As Squarespace explains in this 2013 blog post, Mobile Is a Big Deal… Why Isn’t Your Website?:

“Comprehensive website solutions like Squarespace do all the work for you by providing templates that are designed with beautiful, functional mobile use in mind.”

The trade offs are that there are far fewer templates on Squarespace than there are WordPress themes and not all of the bells and whistles features, but most. So, if you agree with me that the templates that Squarespace does have are elegant and modern, then one advantage that you get is that you know your website is built from the ground up (like a more custom mobile site) with mobile-friendliness in mind. And, as you go forward, you can rest assured (within reasonable limits) that your website updates will not break the template or theme, another blessing of operating within a closed system.

Other Actions You Can Take to Address the Google SEO Update

No matter what approach you decide to take, there’s no doubt in my mind that being mobile-friendly is no longer an option. Your organization needs to look good on mobile devices for both mobile browsers and, now, for Google and the other search engines.

No matter how you proceed, I highly recommend you (or your web master) check out this post from Search Engine Land which offers a very practical set of steps you can take to assess and improve your website’s mobile status, starting with a free test. As they say in their post’s title, “Take These 3 Actions To Get Ready For Google’s Mobile Search Update.”

Here’s the “1, 2, 3” bottom line:

  1. Identify & Improve Your Mobile Web Optimization Status including use of Google’s free “Mobile-Friendly Test” tool. Click here to get a mobile-friendly assessment of any webpage.
  2. Assess Your Mobile Web Search Visibility & Traffic Behavior
  3. Establish Your Mobile Web Search Competitiveness & Monitor Your Performance

Tech-savvy details for this kind of evaluation are included in that post.

Done-For-You vs Done-WITH-You

And, for those of you who may not have heard, if you are interested in a Squarespace website, ComBridges is pioneering a collaborative process we call “1-to-1 Get It Done Websites.” It saves money and time. Please click here to learn more about this innovative approach.

And thanks for reading!

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Thanks in part to all the blog comment spammers, comments are turned off on this blog (at least for now). However, PLEASE, I would LOVE to hear from you, including any comments, criticisms, suggestions or whatever, via any of the social networks linked at the very top of this page. Thanks.[/alert]

Stress Less & Get It Done! Now, We Can Co-Create Your New Low-Cost Squarespace Website

New website home page for video director, Jim Draper

New website for live event video director, Jim Draper

In less time than it takes to play a round of golf, we had my new website designed and published…”

This is just part of one of two testimonials that I’ve already received (published in their entirety below) for a new streamlined and extremely cost effective website design implementation process that I’ve just developed. Despite the fact that I’ve been a WordPress fanboy and advocate for years, this new approach utilizes the Squarespace platform and a unique from of collaboration in order to help people who have been struggling to create a website get one up and running in record time.

At the end of day, I am the kind of guy who enjoys finding and recommending simpler solutions that can help small businesses to be more effective online, and I want to help them to do more more easily, with a minimum of stress. That’s why I’ve developed this entirely new approach.

Streamlining Through a Collaborative Process

The name for this offer was inspired by copy-writing coach and friend, Lisa Canfield, who says that when she’s collaborating with clients, “I’m working one-on-one and just gettin’ it done.” With Lisa’s permission, I’ve decided to call my new offer: “1-to-1 Get-It-Done Websites.” Cool name, eh?

Much to my own surprise, I’ve discovered that I can help small businesses get entire websites (or at least most of it) designed and produced within a single one-on-one session (either in person or via screen sharing). Without marketing this offer, I’ve already completed two of this new kind of website design session. It’s been fun for me, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the process due to the joy of collaboration, the satisfaction of being extremely productive (so many people get stuck in the process of trying to get a website done), and rewarding for both me and the client because of the tangible, visible results. If you are interested, please scroll down to the end of this post for a special savings offer that is only available for the next three clients who commit to doing a 1-to-1 Get-It-Done Website design session.

Success Times Two

Live event, multi-camera video director, Jim Draper, needed a re-design of his out-dated website. As he says below, he struggled for months and wasted many hours before we sat down to create Jim’s new 1-to-1 Get-It-Done Website:

I’m very pleased with the 1-to-1 Get-It-Done Website session that I just did with Jon Leland at ComBridges. In less than the time it takes to play a round of golf, we had my new website designed and published. I particularly enjoyed the collaborative process with Jon. We were able to share, implement and execute ideas together; and I’m very excited about the result.
Prior to this session, I had wasted many hours over a couple of months trying to update my website, but I could’t get the look that I wanted. I finally reached out to Jon and in just one afternoon, he saved me a ton of time, money and effort. In my opinion, the combination of Jon’s expertise and this streamlined process is a real winner. If you want to get your website done with a minimum of stress, I don’t think there’s a better way.
— Jim Draper, President, Draper Creative Group

Click here to check out Jim’s new website

The other 1-to-1 Get-It-Done Website production that I’ve done so far was for local singer-songwriter, Dara Ackerman. She offered these words of appreciation for the value of this collaborative process:

Sitting together with Jon Leland for three short hours, brainstorming a plan, bouncing ideas off each other as we collaborated every step of the way, and then watching them materialize as eight beautiful webpages was a thrill and delight. Who knew that creating a new website could be so fast, easy, affordable and fun? Jon is a master of all things internet, and he brings a warm and enthusiastic spirit of partnership and creativity. If you are looking for help designing a quick new website, look no further. An added benefit was being exposed to the Squarespace platform as we went along. This has made it easy for me to make changes and additions on my own afterwards. Thank you, Jon, I am very excited to finally have a new website that I can be proud of!
                                             — Dara Ackerman, singer-songwriter 

Learn More

You’ll be amazed at how productive we can be together with this platform and approach. Together, you and I will collaborate and build the foundation of your new site’s structure and your new site’s look and feel based on one of Squarespace’s beautiful templates. If you would like more details about how this works, please check out this page for more info. The “Get Details” link at the bottom of that page provides a complimentary worksheet that will set you up for an efficient and productive session. Thanks! I look forward to your feedback, and please let me know if you have any questions.

Getting Creative with WordPress Websites, “Small & Big”

We are very pleased to have launched two new WordPress website designs in the last week or so.

New WordPress Website Designs

From an entry level WordPress website that is at the “getting started quickly on a lower budget than we thought we’d ever get from ComBridges” level like the one we just created for Luna Marendi, to a much more elaborate, corporate production like the one we just built in collaboration with the high profile leadership and culture coach, Christine Comaford, the ComBridges team is flowing with ease, and even if we do say so ourselves, we do WordPress right. 😉

In fact, our team has recently expanded. As a result, we are having even more fun doing things like customizing WordPress in creative ways and integrating time-saving plugins that support our clients’ social media marketing.

So, whether your organization is small or big, we would welcome the opportunity to help you have the professional web presence you want, at a price you can afford.

If you’re ready for a new website, let’s talk!

Facebook Marketing Meets Google Hangouts: How to Expand Your Video Audience

Our live Google Hangouts On Air webcast as it appeared live via our Facebook Page

Our live Google Hangouts On Air webcast as it appeared live via our Facebook Page

Sometimes I learn best by just going for it and trying new things. In this case, not only did I learn a new capability with Facebook Pages, but I also learned a new way to expand a video’s reach. In the hope that this trick is useful to you, I’ll explain how and what I did.

The day before our last 3 Geeky Amigos Takes on Facebook Marketing live webcast via Google Hangouts On Air (please find this video embedded below), I happened to see a local Internet marketing “guru” pitching the ability to create a “simulcast” of a live video Google Hangout via a Facebook Page. Sadly, this dude and his presumably “JV partners” were pitching their ability to create this functionality like it was a breakthrough so that you would buy their app for building Facebook pages with video embeds. 

I liked the idea, but I suspected it wasn’t that hard to do. Given that my pals and I do 3 Geeky Amigos as kind of informal R&D sharing event… as well as because it’s fun for us to learn and share how to use tech stuff like Google Hangouts On Air (and this IS a great platform for producing and recording live video conversations because they instantly publish to YouTube)… about a half-hour before the semi-regular (Tuesdays at 3pm PT) start time of our webcast, I started trying to figure out how to do this kind of “simulcast.” 

As someone who does know how to create custom, interactive Facebook Pages for clients, I use an online app called GroSocial. So I wasn’t starting from scratch. However, I checked with my contact at GroSocial and he hadn’t heard of anyone doing this before; and he encouraged me by saying, “cool idea!” 

Bottom line, Google Hangouts On Air provides an iFrame embed code so that you can post your live video “event” inside any web page. GroSocial has an iFrame module so that you can embed any iFrame inside a Facebook Page. Once I aligned those pieces in my mind, linking them together was a piece of cake.

Thus, voila! In just a few minutes, our webcast was live on Google+, YouTube and Facebook all at the same time (and of course it lives on via YouTube and anywhere else that we choose to place this embed code and could have been live simultaneously on any number of webpages. Thank you, Google.) In other words, it could have been live on our website as well. All I would have needed to do is to create a blog post or new page and use that same embed code. Pretty cool, eh?

I explain and show more via the recording of this webcast below. Enjoy and let me know if I can help you to expand your video, social media, or any other form of Internet marketing reach… anytime, anywhere.

What is certainly clear is that what I started calling “The Video Web” years ago is really gaining fresh momentum. 🙂

This Week’s “3 Geegy Amigos” Tech Talk Show via Google Hangouts

3geekyamigos-logo

We had fun today and I think there’s lots of useful information for you, as we live recorded this week’s episode of our new tech talk show, “3 Geeky Amigos” (live almost every week, Tuesdays at 3pm PT). We learned a lot including how to do lower-third graphic titles inside of Google Hangouts On Air and talked about everything from iPhone apps to Gmail’s upcoming interface update, Moz.com to free WordPress training, Internet marketing (of course) to social analytics software and even a little bit of Twitter’s Vine video app. Note: All of the links that are mentioned in this edition are right there for you in the YouTube video’s description. So click on the video title in the embedded video below if you want the links. Audio-only version also offered below, just in case that’s more convenient. You can even download that one.

Enjoy and we’d love your feedback!

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/96188513″ params=”” width=” 100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

Mobile Apps and Mobile-Friendly Websites for Business: 
The Next Big Thing in Internet Marketing?

Shortly after Internet accessibility via mobile phones started to take off, marketers started to encourage businesses to build mobile versions of their websites. But there is always a gap between innovations and those who follow up in order to take advantage of the latest technologies.

mobile-friendly website with responsive WordPress theme

ComBridges’ new mobile-friendly website design uses a responsive WordPress theme

But, now that there is a meaningful volume of web visitors checking out every website (yes, even yours!) via mobile devices, spanning this gap is becoming more of a requirement. And yet, there are still a very significant number of businesses who don’t have mobile-friendly websites. The really bad news, particularly for those who are falling behind, is that the gap is widening between those who are meeting the demand for mobile-friendly web communications and those who are not. The good news is that there are a new generation of business communication tools arising in the form of apps and new kinds of websites that make meeting this need increasingly accessible. Illuminating these trends with specific examples is the purpose of this blog post.

The Mobile Web is Exploding

These changes are unquestionably dramatic. While the Web was born on desktop computers, it is obviously no longer simply a desktop medium. By May 2012, fully one tenth of the world’s web traffic was arriving on your digital doorstep via mobile phones and tablets. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. It’s the “developing” world that is truly leading the charge. In those countries where cell phones have long outnumbered landlines, more than one-half of web use is now coming via mobile devices. This demand for mobile delivery is now forcing the issue and providing further fuel for the shift in how websites are designed. In this environment, for a company to ignore the need for the mobile-friendly delivery of its Web content not only limits that company’s engagement opportunities because they are essentially “dissing” a significant segment of their audience. In the US alone, mobile is now estimated to be about 15% of web traffic. Bottom line, this form of resistance to change (or upgrades) will also exclude that company from a significant component of how the next billion people will get online.

Chinese woman with iPad

Photo by Robert May, April, 2013

Not Your Father’s Website Design

Web development for the mobile age itself is advancing quickly. One of the latest innovations is called responsive website designs. Because responsive designs automatically adjust their layout to suit the device being used, they offer a relatively simple solution that can eliminate the complexity of having to create a separate mobile-friendly version of your website. But this means that those—like my company recently—must invest in a redesign in order to keep pace with the mobile revolution. But that’s not all. The pace of change does not slow down. It accelerates.

Span the Gap with an App

Now, at least for marketers who are committed to the leading edge of engagement with social media savvy users who love their mobile devices, a responsive design may not be enough. Mobile apps are yet another important innovation because they combine the emergence of ever-expanding Web access via mobile devices with the ability to communicate directly, in a native form (i.e. within the mobile medium) via customized business-specific functionalities from Facebook feeds, to special offers, to location-based components.

A recent article by SmartMediaTips on mobile statistics points out that over 50% of an individual’s time spent on a smartphone is spent using apps. In 2011, smartphone users downloaded 17.7 billion apps, and this number is expected to increase to 108 billion by 2015. As a result, more than 300,000 apps were developed in the last 3 years. In a sense, apps are the new websites (just like “60 is the new 40.”)

The good news is that some newly developed Web-based SaaS (software as service) resources are make building basic apps far more accessible and affordable than previously imagined. The result is a new trend in mobile marketing: the development of business apps that can be used by companies of virtually any size. Of course, many large, enterprise-level businesses have already jumped on the app bandwagon, including banks, Starbucks, Google, and even Walmart’s new checkout app. Now, there are mobile apps for the rest of us.

Mobile Apps vs. Mobile Websites

A business mobile app means that your website can be programmed to offer mobile users an interface for your website and social media content that is all the more friendly, not only with a vertical layout that fits a smartphone screen, but with an interface that features icons (rather than web-style text links) that are also a natural for the touch of a screen. Thus, an app offers more than a responsive website design. An app gives your business a mobile presence that can put local or social media interactivity in a more prominent position. In particular, an app allows your loyal customers and followers to retrieve content, like audio podcasts or video commentaries for example, that are more conveniently accessed while on the move. Likewise, Facebook posts and tweets, which are commonly accessed via mobile, can become part of your business app’s featured content.

One logical strategy is use the app to make your social media marketing and content marketing outreach more accessible. For example, when individuals are standing in line at the bank or at the grocery store, with an app at their fingertips, they will much more easily be able browse through your Facebook posts. In fact, they are certainly more likely to visit your Facebook Page while on your app rather than from Facebook’s own app where they are far more than likely to be distracted by their family’s photos, etc.

Likewise, if you host a contest, offer a coupon or some other form of promotion, those who get involved with your app can much more quickly check contest updates from an app and receive automated notifications (with permission of course). The app makes waiting for your responsive website to load, asking the user to find the contest page, then wait for that page to load, etc. seem prosaic. An app simply makes any interaction with your web content immediately available with a simple touch of an icon, rather than forcing a web page and more complex navigation through the smaller screen.

Learning from Experience

Small Business mobile app example

ComBridges’ Facebook Feed in our test mobile app

By way of example, as a boutique web design and marketing agency, our company, ComBridges used to have a mobile-friendly version of our website that was visible via smartphones. This was developed using a WordPress plug-in called WPTouch Pro. Recently, we have redesigned and relaunched our own site with a responsive WordPress theme.

What opens up the opportunity for a small business like ours (and so many others) to have its own app is online software services like Conduit.com’s Mobile. While these apps do require a small, additional monthly hosting fee, they are easy for developers like us to implement. So much so that some do-it-yourselfer small businesses could even build apps on their own. It’s a work in progress, but if you have a smartphone, you can preview our first generation mobile app via any mobile device at combridges.conduitapps.com.

You will notice that what you see on our app looks very different than what you see on our website. It’s designed for mobile interaction. In fact, thanks to Conduit, much of the content is automatically derived from our Facebook Page, Twitter feed and more. As you can see, many of our social media pages are featured along with easy options for contacting us, including click to call functionality.

Greeting the Mobile Future

According to Morgan Stanley, 91% of individuals who own smart phones keep their phone within reach 24/7. And 5.1 billion of the 7 billion people on earth own a mobile phone. With these numbers in mind, why wouldn’t every business want to make it easier for their customers, blog readers, Twitter or Facebook followers to engage with them via a mobile app?

Another benefit is that if you develop your business app now, before the gap widens further, you may well be seen as an innovator. At the very least, you will prove yourself smart enough to get an early jump on the next wave of mobile marketing strategies, rather than letting the gap widen between you and your competitors, as well as between you and your customers.


Jon Leland is author of “Internet Marketing: 8 Key Concepts that Every Business MUST Know” and is the president of the boutique web design, video and Internet marketing agency, ComBridges.com. He was assisted in this article by Tara Hornor who also writes for PrintPlace.com, an online printing company.