You've probably been hearing the buzz about "responsive websites" and how Google has updated their search results algorithm (and Bing, too) to boost the ranking of mobile-friendly pages on mobile search results. But even if you haven't, you're probably aware that people's web browsing habits are changing. More and more people are browsing the web from mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. According to ComScore, time spent on digital media consumption on smartphones has increased 394% over the past four years; and 1,721% on tablets. More than 75% of all digital consumers (age 18+) are now using both desktop and mobile platforms to access the Internet, up from 68% a year ago. What's more, there is a substantially higher percentage of users accessing the Internet exclusively from mobile devices over last year.
So what does this mean for your website?
It means that if your website isn't optimized for mobile viewing, you may be suffering in the search results and your website's visitors may not be having a good experience once they do get to your website. And if they're not having a good experience, it's likely that they'll leave the site quickly--and they may not come back. Designing (or updating) your website to be mobile-friendly is a veritable "must" in today's world.
How Can I Tell if My Site is Mobile-Friendly?
Google has provided a handy tool to check whether websites are "mobile-friendly" or not. Simply enter your website's URL into the field provided, then click "Analyze" to view the results.
It's also a good idea to check your Google Analytics reports to see how much of your website's traffic is coming from mobile devices or tablets. You can find this information in the Audience < Mobile < Overview section. Look back over the past six months or year, and compare that to the previous period. Are you noticing an increase in mobile traffic?
What is the Recommended Approach?
The current industry-accepted approach for mobile optimization (and Google's recommended approach) is to make your website responsive. Responsive websites are built in such a way that the content will resize to fit the screen size it's being viewed on--whether that's a TV monitor, a desktop computer, a laptop, a tablet, or a smartphone. Here's some examples--take a look at them on your computer, then view them on a smartphone.
Notice how the elements resize and in some cases, reorder, so you can easily view them on the smaller screen. You'll probably notice that the menu disappears and is replaced by a menu icon that looks like three horizontal bars. This approach helps save space. Touching that menu icon will trigger the menu to open, so the user can navigate to their desired page. Most responsive websites will also have a "home" icon featured prominently at the top of the site, to help visitors easily navigate to the home page.
Some elements may also be missing. For example, large image rotators or banners will often be hidden on mobile devices to help speed up loading time and save space.
There are other options for having a mobile presence on the web. You can develop a mobile-only website--where visitors who are accessing the site via a mobile device are automatically directed to a different website with mobile-optimized content. However, we prefer the responsive approach because:
- There's less maintenance: you only have to manage one website, instead of two
- All content is accessible to mobile visitors; with a mobile-only website, only select content may be available
- It's Google's recommended approach
- The site will look great on any screen--from TVs to smartphones--whereas mobile-only sites may be restricted to certain devices
How Do I Make My Website Responsive?
Many existing websites can be converted to be responsive, but the amount of work and time it will take may depend on a few things:
- Your existing design. Some website designs (open, uncluttered) lend themselves better to responsive design. Some designs are simply too boxy or cluttered to be able to resize elegantly on a smaller screen. In this instance, redesigning the look and feel of the website is advised.
- How your site is programmed. Some platforms or programming approaches lend themselves to easy updates, such as a conversion to responsive. Others may require more work or may even need to be completely re-created.
- Your website's content. Sites that use a lot of tables and images will require more extensive reprogramming, as all of the tables will need to be either changed from a "fixed width" to a "percent" to allow for scalability, or be changed entirely to 'divs', which allow the content to wrap. Images may also need to be re-sized and the height/width settings will need to be removed.
- Your website's functionality. Special functionality like forms, image rotators or galleries, search programs, and others may need to be updated to function in a responsive manner as well.
Want help making your website mobile friendly? Give us a call at 608.787.1010 or email email@example.com.