For the first time, we’re getting more searches on mobile devices than on desktop.
That’s the recent word from Google senior vice president of search Amit Singhal, as reported by The Verge in October. It’s a stunning commentary on the habits of web users. They’re increasingly on the move and content to use a smaller device for many of their search needs. Practically speaking, however, the news is far more than an interesting sound bite. It should also inform how we build and maintain our websites, especially if we care about increasing traffic (as everyone should).
Most large corporations have seen this trend coming and reacted accordingly. It’s primarily small businesses that should take a moment to make sure their websites are optimized for mobile devices.
“Mobile used to be the future of business,” explained Ceros chief scientist Brian Alvey, per Entrepreneur. “Mobile used to be a trend. Now it’s the norm.”
And as a norm, your site risks becoming obsolete if it isn’t designed to accommodate mobile devices. Even if your think everything looks fine when displayed on a mobile device, there may still be room for improvement.
Some of the technical specifications may require you to seek the help of a web designer, but you should still be familiar with the general ideas behind mobile optimization. Ask the right questions and know your role in the process.
Responsive Sites Are Probably Better
In theory, you could have two separate sites: one for desktops and one for mobile devices. But that isn’t entirely ideal. Entrepreneur’s Kim Lachance Shandrow cites Alvey as believing that a one-size-fits-all “responsive” site is preferred by major search engines like Google and Bing. That’s reason enough to prefer a single site that’s responsive to different browsers.
Are There Any Shortcuts?
Handling mobile optimization in-house can be a daunting task. It’s almost certainly better to hire an expert web-designer, but you can also start by choosing a web hosting company that already ensures mobile friendly design. Options include WordPress, GoDaddy and SquareSpace—all reputable brands that make it pretty easy to build a sharp-looking website. However if you are looking for search engine results and a mobile website that performs you need to consult with a pro.
Think Like a Mobile User
Even larger smart phone screens offer limited viewing space, which means packing a page with tons of content can be counterproductive. There’s beauty in simplicity, but there’s also some real practical benefit. While you don’t want to skimp on important information, make sure that information is easily viewable and accessible.
Another example of a mobile-friendly move is adding a “click-to-call” button that allows users to call your business simply be pressing a button (rather than having to copy and paste your phone number). These may seem like small considerations, but they impact just how easy it is for users to navigate your site.
Think about your desired customer and the actions they are likely to perform on your mobile site,” writes Search Engine Watch’s Andy Betts. “Are they there to research or find merchandise? Are they looking up an address or phone number on the way to your restaurant?
“Mobile search now accounts for about 60 percent of online traffic to websites, and people use their devices to complete a myriad of tasks. Consider all the possible actions customers might take from a mobile device and use these ideas to guide the planning of the mobile site and the navigation menu.
A number of factors can influence both ease of use and how Google ranks your website. Here’s a rundown of considerations:
– Check with a web designer to make sure your page speed will accommodate mobile users. Their devices often load pages more slowly than desktops.
– Be sure your fonts scale for smaller screens. Otherwise, users may be forced to constantly zoom in and out, disrupting their viewing experiences.
– Are touch elements like buttons grouped too closely together, making it difficult for users to press the one they’re trying to select? Check the spacing between such buttons to ensure they’re easy to select.
-Avoid forcing users to move around a page too much in order to find the content for which they’re looking. Scrolling up and down a page is par for the course, but users shouldn’t have to move horizontally in order to find what they need.
Test Your Site
How does it look on mobile devices? More importantly, how does it look on different types of mobile devices? You should examine your site first hand from a variety of devices, stopping at an electronic store like Best Buy if need be. There you can find a number of smart phones and tablets, along with their corresponding operating systems and browsers. This is an ideal way to make sure all your optimization efforts are in fact paying off.
Measure Your Site’s Effectiveness
Using software like Google analytics, you can determine what kind of traffic you’re getting. That’s always helpful when determining the overall effectiveness of your site and each individual page. Even more importantly, you can take a look at things like “bounce rates” and the average duration of each visit. If people are leaving your mobile site too quickly, it may have as much to do with design problems as the content itself.
Consult With a Professional
While some site builders will automatically account for mobile optimization, you shouldn’t make too many assumptions. Web design experts can assess the current mobile readiness of your site and recommend potential changes.
There are also tools available to you, including two from Google: the Mobile Usability Report and the Mobile-Friendly Test. These won’t necessarily replace your need to speak with an expert, but you really want to conduct as much research as possible before calling it a day.
Remember, it’s an increasingly mobile world, and businesses of all sizes have to respond accordingly. Investing a little time and resources into mobile optimization is the only way to avoid turning away potential clientele. If you have any questions about your site’s mobile responsiveness contact us today and we can give you the answers you need.