Is Your Website Mobile Friendly?

By Chris Wadsworth

Published in The Source issue 24

If you don’t have a mobile friendly website then recent changes by Google could see you drop off Google’s search results. How much will this affect your business? What can you do about it?

Google wants to deliver its users the best possible experience and in mid-April 2015 they changed their search algorithm so that people searching on mobile devices now see fewer links to websites that don’t display well on smartphones and tablets. Google has stated that this change will “have a significant impact on search results”.

This is great news for businesses that have already invested in a mobile friendly website, because they are going to see more visits to their website from Google. But those that haven’t optimised their website for mobile screens could see their website disappear down the search rankings while their competitors take pole position.

Will this affect your website?

If the design of your website doesn’t change to fit smaller screens then people using mobile devices like smartphones and tablets will already find it difficult to use your website because text will be small, content will be wider than the screen and links will be too close together. These usability issues are of little importance though if people on mobile devices can’t even find your website because Google puts your competitors ahead of you in their searches.

If you’re not sure whether your website is mobile friendly you can test it here: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/

With the proliferation of smartphones and tablets it is not uncommon for some websites to get over half their visits from mobile devices. If this is the case for your website the latest changes by Google could have a massive impact, particularly if Google is a major source of your visits. Before you panic you should check how many visits you actually get from mobile devices. If you have Google Analytics or other software that tracks visits to your website you’ll be able to do this easily. If you don’t then I suggest you talk to your web developer and get Google Analytics set up – it’s free.

If you do get a lot of mobile visits what should you do? My advice would be invest in a mobile friendly website sooner rather than later.

Responsive website design

There was a time when web designers and developers were continually making websites larger as screen sizes increased year on year. Then smartphones and tablets turned things on their head. Not only did we need to design for large desktop screens but we had to allow for small mobile screens too. This is when responsive web design came to the rescue.

Responsive web design is a term used to describe websites that change their layout automatically to fit the size of screen they are being viewed on. If you visit a website with responsive web design on your desktop computer at the same time as your smartphone they will look different even though you are viewing the same website.

Google particularly likes responsive web design because each page only uses one URL which makes it easy for Google to index the website. In the past some websites required different web pages to be made for desktop and mobile screens which meant more pages for Google to index, and more work for website administrators too. With responsive web design there is just one page in the Content Management System (CMS) for administrators to keep up-to-date. The browser then takes the information from the CMS and displays it in the correct way for whatever size screen is being used.

It’s quite common for websites that are more than a couple of years old not to use responsive web design but as smartphone and tablet use has increased it has become more important and Google’s latest announcement demonstrates just how important responsive web design has become.

Posted 23 April 2015

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