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What Does a Mobile-Friendly Website Mean?

What does a mobile-friendly website mean? Well, pin back your ears. On 26 March 2018, Google officially announced it had started the process of migrating websites to mobile-first indexing. “Mobile-Friendly” and “Mobile-First” are terms you will hear a lot over the coming months.

What Do You Mean by Mobile-First Indexing?

The internet is growing. Fast. The number of users accessing the internet via smaller touch-screen devices is growing even faster.

In 2016, the number of mobile internet users overtook the number of people using desktop devices for the first time. To remain the most relevant search engine, Google has opted to re-align its search engine results to prioritise sites that work best for most users – that means mobile users. Where Google goes, all other search engines follow.

Mobile-first indexing means Google prioritises indexing the mobile version of a website’s content over its desktop counterpart. If your website does not work well on a mobile device, a competitor’s mobile-friendly site will likely rank above yours.

It’s hard to argue that, in 2018, business is possible without a website. However, simply having a website is not enough. The internet is becoming ever more competitive. Just building a site and expecting it to attract visitors is no longer a viable strategy. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is a fast-growing industry – expect mobile friendliness to become a key part of their arsenal.

What is a Mobile Friendly Website?

A mobile-friendly website is a site that displays correctly on devices such as smartphones and other touch-screen devices. These websites have been designed and optimised specifically for smaller screens by ensuring that text is readable without zooming in or scrolling horizontally. Images are sized appropriately so they don’t load slowly or distort when viewed on different devices.

How to Make Your Website Mobile Friendly?

There are two principal approaches to achieving a mobile-friendly website:

  • Maintain a mobile version of your site – as of 2018, Facebook and other significant sites maintain mobile versions of their sites. The cost of maintaining a separate site is greater, but it means both mobile and desktop versions are simpler. This approach does require some level of device detection and redirection. This is not ideal.
  • Develop a Responsive Website – for most smaller sites responsive design appears to be the way forward. A responsive website adjusts its layout based on the device you’re using.

What is a Responsive Website?

A responsive site is designed to work on all screen sizes – both touchscreen and desktop. This means that whether you’re viewing the site from your desktop at work, tablet at home or smartphone while on the go, you’ll have an experience that works on your device.

Clever page structure and CSS (style) overrides mean that the site adjusts itself depending on the screen size and orientation of the device being used. There are advantages for developers – there is only one lot of website code to develop.

However, there are disadvantages:

  • Complexity – responsive sites require more complex code. Overwrites and separate rulesets can make debugging difficult.
  • More extensive code base – the styles and graphics for all screen sizes must be downloaded. Unless very well-designed, responsive sites can be larger than their dedicated counterparts.
  • It is challenging to convert existing websites to become fully responsive. To make your website work well at all screen sizes may prove expensive.

Features of Well Optimised Mobile-Friendly Sites

  • Simple Navigation: Mobile screens are smaller than desktop screens, so navigation must be simple and straightforward. A cluttered navigation menu can frustrate mobile users and may lead them to abandon your site.
  • Optimised Images and Videos: Large images and videos can slow down your site on mobile devices, leading to a poor user experience. A well-optimised site will use image sizes targeted for smaller screens.
  • Large Font Sizes: Small text can be hard to read on small screens so designers will use larger font sizes for smaller screens.

Why Does Mobile Friendly Matter?

You cannot overstate the importance of having a mobile-friendly website. Here are some reasons why:

  • It is the Future – these usage trends are not going into reverse any time soon. Mobile is here to stay. If most users are now on mobile and your website is not mobile-friendly, they are likely to use a site which works for them.
  • Improved User Experience: All the statistics show that, the easier a site is to use, the more likely they are to linger longer. If visitors can navigate your site easily on their phones without pinching and zooming in constantly, they are more likely to stay longer and engage with your content.
  • Better Search Engine Ranking: Google has made it clear that it now prioritises mobile-friendly websites in its search results. This means that if your website is not optimised for mobile, it could be penalised in the search rankings, making it harder for potential customers to find you.
  • Increased Conversion Rates: A mobile-friendly website can lead to higher conversion rates. Visitors who find your site difficult to navigate or read on their mobile devices are less likely to leave and try a competitor’s site.

The Good News

At Little Fire Digital, we have been working towards developing a responsive framework for our vCMS content management system for some time. All of our recent sites have been certified as Mobile-Friendly using Google’s test page.

If you want to get your site ready for the future of web design and development, you should talk to us.