Nearly 98 percent of the 42.7 million smartphone users in the US check out their favorite websites on their mobiles. Don’t you hate it when you have to pinch and drag or scroll all over the site to find what you’re looking for? As more mobile users access websites through search engines (34 percent increase from ’08-’09), there is a growing need to ensure mobile browsing experience is simple and user-friendly.

As smartphone users can attest, accessing your favorite websites is much different on mobile devices. At times it can feel as if you’re looking at the world through a key hole. Optimizing your website for mobile eliminates this narrow perspective. To help you develop a successful, engaging user experience on iPhones, Androids, Blackberrys and more here are a few tips to get you started:

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Audience Need — First step in mobile web optimization: understand why your user is visiting. Target’s mobile home page identifies the core reasons why users visit the site, e.g. browse categories, find a store, weekly ad, registries + lists, gift cards, coupons. Target clearly prioritizes content most relevant to its users and their mobile usage behavior. It would be misguided for Target’s landing page to feature lamps, produce and wedges.

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Simplify — You might be tempted to create a “wow” experience for your mobile users. Resist this temptation to incorporate Flash and bulky content. Remember, users are viewing your site on a small screen and want information or entertainment in digestible pieces. Don’t undervalue simple lists. Maybe get in your time-traveling machine and revisit early web design. In other words, use HTML and CSS. Your audience will appreciate the easier, more straight-forward approaches and will likely keep them browsing longer.

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Images Optional — Maxim, a publication that relies much on its sexy celebrity pics, allows users to hide images for a faster browsing experience. Image-heavy website can take forever and a day to load. Rule of thumb, particularly in tech: don’t keep your customers waiting, it drains their smart phone’s battery and their patience.

Use Sub-Domain –Target uses the sub domain, “sites” (e.g. http://sites.target.com). Why not just use the much-hyped .mobi to create a new site? For sanity sake, sub-domains keep everything under one roof — making it easier to manage. In the end, would you rather manage two sites or one?

Test, Test, Test — While you should use simple web programming languages (HTML, CSS), make sure to test the site across multiple platforms. If you’re only testing on a Blackberry, it could be drastically different on an Android or iPhone. Nothing detracts visitors than a broken site and thinking they were not a priority audience.

After optimizing your website for mobile, track usage. If you’re using Google Analytics, click “visitors” in the left sidebar then the sub-category, “mobile devices.” Voila! You can now track mobile users. Surely, your users will appreciate a stripped-down, easy-to-use site and return frequently.

Want to learn more about mobile trends? Read our 2010 Mobile Trend Report.