Is your website mobile-friendly?

by Stratton Craig

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We all know how frustrating it is to use a site that’s not mobile optimised – trying to decipher miniscule text, click on a tiny link or read a paragraph while scrolling continuously from side to side. It’s a turn off. And the likelihood is, you’ll leave the site in favour of one that doesn’t involve squinting and zooming. Which means less traffic for the offending site – and less business.
But from 21st April, enter Google’s new rules, which have made the commercial implications of having a mobile-unfriendly site a lot more serious. The search engine behemoth is now using its powers of control to drive forward advances in site technology – penalising sites that aren’t optimised for mobiles and smartphones by ranking them lower in its search results.
The Google rules
Regardless of whether these companies have a high frequency of mobile-phone visitors, if they don’t have a dynamic site Google will make them less visible. So in addition to annoying consumers with headache-inducing sites, they could also fall off the radar and lose out to the competition.
But Google does have a point. The way consumers are using the internet has changed – fifty percent of all web searches are now made from handheld devices. So companies with mobile-repellent sites are losing out on significant traffic.
How to test your website
But help is at hand from Google in the form of a mobile-friendly test to help companies check their websites and make the necessary changes before they face eviction from the online front row. You just need to enter your web address and the test will tell you if it’s passed or failed from a mobile-friendly perspective.
Getting your site mobile-ready
If your site isn’t mobile-ready, you have two options to fix this:

  • Use a responsive website design

A responsive website design uses the same website for all visitors by recognising their device and adapting its layout to fit. It’s a dynamic format that scales content intelligently, according to the user’s screen.

  • Host a customised mobile site

The second option is to create a completely separate mobile-oriented site, hosted on a subdomain of your website. This will have a simpler layout with less content, to match the reduced screen space on a mobile. It’s also better suited for tapping and swiping instead of clicking.

What’s the best option?
Both choices work perfectly well. However, if your business is mobile or e-commerce-driven, a customised site is best, as it provides a dedicated mobile experience. This can be simpler and cheaper to design, but running costs will likely be higher as you’re managing two websites. Also, if there are major screen or browser technology changes, you’ll need to change your site to match these.
If your business isn’t e-commerce or mobile-driven and you want a cheaper, more flexible option that works across all devices, choose a responsive website design. Although these sites can be less sensitive when switching screen sizes, Google prefers this form because it works for all devices.
If you purchased your design from a theme provider like WordPress, all you need to do is upgrade to a newer theme, which should already be mobile-optimised.
The bottom line
The bottom line is this: it doesn’t hugely matter which option you choose, as long as you optimise your site. Otherwise, you could end up alienating your consumers, being relegated to the Google substitute bench, and ultimately missing out on commercial opportunities.

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