It seems everywhere you go these days you see people clutching their smartphones: whether it be waiting to be served at a local restaurant or standing in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles, we’re on our smartphones all the time. The ubiquitous nature of mobile devices has become commonplace and like it or not smartphones are here to stay.
Surprisingly however, a good many business websites are still designed with desktop-only layouts in mind. Although a good many of us in the field of web design & development have extolled the virtues of mobile friendly websites and responsive web design for quite some time, it seems a large number of business owners have yet take advantage of the tremendous opportunities that a mobile friendly website has to offer over its desktop only competitors.
In the effort to educate our clients we might cite recent stats indicating that 60% of users browse the internet on mobile devices, up from 50% in 2013 (notice the upward trend?), and extol the virtues of User-Experience (UX) as chief motivators for mobilizing a business’ website, however, despite convincing evidence that a business’ website should be mobile friendly, an attitude of indifference persists.
Whatever the case, with the recent announcement that as of April 21st, 2015 Google will start ranking mobile friendly websites higher than desktop-only websites in search results, the time to adopt a mobile friendly layout for your business’ website is now as having a mobile friendly website will no longer be an option, but rather a necessity. According to Google:
We will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.
That said, if your business depends on your website as the primary means by which to generate leads, it’s time to take action, and fast.
What Constitutes A Mobile Friendly Website?
Quite often potential clients who come to us for assistance with their existing websites aren’t sure whether their sites are currently mobile friendly and in most cases they’re not. Occasionally we’ll find that their prior designer implemented a mobile friendly layout without their knowledge. In either instance however, it’s important to know what constitutes a mobile friendly website and what doesn’t.
For starters let’s look at what a mobile friendly website isn’t. Any website that requires visitors to “pinch” and “zoom” in order to read content and navigate to other parts of the site on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets is not mobile friendly. Anyone who’s ever viewed a desktop-only website from a smartphone will readily attest that a good deal of “pinching” and “zooming” is required to view content on such a site.
Further, a mobile friendly website should enable visitors to take actions appropriate for the devices that they’re viewing the website on, e.g. when a telephone number is indicated on a website that’s being viewed on a smartphone that telephone number should be clickable, enabling the visitor to initiate a call that instant, as opposed to requiring the visitor to either memorize or write down the phone number prior to placing the call.
Other such items include contact & call-to-action (CTA) forms that can be easily filled out and submitted directly from a smartphone or tablet. Links and buttons should be styled in such a way that they’re easily clickable. Maps should allow visitors to easily pull up directions to a business’ location on the fly. If you’re unable to do so from a smartphone on your own website then chances are your website was designed from a desktop only perspective and isn’t mobile friendly.
In some cases however, you might be hit with a bit of ambiguity as your entire site may be visible within the screen of your smartphone, all of the text may be legible and some of the buttons and links can be clicked. If this is the case when viewing your website don’t despair: the fine folks at Google have created this Mobile Friendly Test page that will tell you instantly whether or not your website is mobile friendly. Just enter your url, click the “Analyze” button and within seconds you’ll be in the know.
What If Your Website Isn’t Mobile Friendly?
So what if you’ve found that your website isn’t mobile friendly? Are your rankings in the search engines going to take a major hit? Perhaps. Is traffic to your website going to take a nosedive? Possibly. The first thing you’re going to want to determine is whether or not your website has even been optimized for the search engines by either your web developer or S.E.O. (Search Engine Optimization) specialist.
If not (although as a business owner your website should be), then you’re in luck. Given that your site hasn’t been optimized for search, you’re not ranking for any particular keyword phrases in search and you won’t be penalized for not having a mobile friendly site.
If your website has been optimized however and you’re ranking for a particular set of keyword phrases in search, then you’re going to want to implement a mobile friendly layout as soon as possible so that your rankings don’t plummet. By so doing you may also find that you’ve risen above your competitors who haven’t mobilized their sites yet, which will have made your move to a mobile friendly layout all that much the more worthwhile.
Talk to your web designer or developer and let them know that you’d like to adopt a mobile friendly layout. If it’s been some time since you last updated your website, they may well suggest a partial redesign, which may be necessary in some cases. It’s also possible that they can easily adapt the current layout of your site to a mobile friendly layout. In either case, however, it’s going to take a significant amount of time to do so, so you’ll want to plan accordingly.
That said, April 21st right around the corner, so the time to start planning your next move is now! Need help planning how to best move forward with your mobile strategy? If so, we’d be happy to discuss the requirements for getting your website up to date and ready for the search engines! Drop us a line today, we’d love to hear from you!