Google have recently announced they will soon change the algorithms they use to determine a websites mobile page rank. These changes will penalise webmasters who have not properly considered the increasing legions of mobile users.
We know the mobile web is becoming a dominant force in the online landscape, with workplaces and schools adopting a BYOD policy. People are accessing content from every conceivable location and Google have finally started to recognise this.
Why is this important?
Firstly and most obviously, if you have a poorly optimised mobile website Google will reduce your search ranking. Secondly websites designed for desktops perform poorly on mobile devices which suffer from a lack of processing power, screen size or necessary data bandwidth to view high resolution images or otherwise heavy desktop content. These aspects lead to a frustrating mobile experience which will reduce return on investment and conversion rates for web site owners.
A Compuware survey indicates 60% of web users have had poor experiences accessing websites on mobile devices. 40% would visit a competitor’s mobile site instead. To this end performance is paramount to any webmaster wishing to attract and keep a mobile audience.
Performance is king
51Degrees.mobi mobile analytics show that mobile traffic has increased by 50% over the last year. Mobile devices now account for more than one in four of every website visit. If this rate holds steady we may finally see mobile devices overtake traditional web traffic by 2015. This is especially important for businesses using websites for services, products or transactions. If you own a website and don’t already have a mobile solution perhaps now is the time to start thinking about your future.
Colt McAnlis (Developer advocate at Google) recently gave a presentation at the HTML5 Developer Conference discussing the importance of mobile web performance. Colt states that 40% of people will leave a website if it does not load within three seconds. Developers must optimise their mobile website for speed; however user experience and interaction design remain key issues.
The new mobile design de facto?
Google’s recommendations for mobile design consists of three officially supported configurations. These three options grant webmasters the flexibility to put users first whilst ensuring good mobile design practice.
- Sites that dynamically serve all devices on the same set of URLs, but each URL serves different HTML (and CSS) depending on whether the user agent is a desktop or a mobile device.
- Sites that have separate mobile and desktop URLs.
- Sites that use responsive web design, i.e. sites that serve all devices on the same set of URLs, with each URL serving the same HTML to all devices and using just CSS to change how the page is rendered on the device.
All configurations are equally supported and there are no negative consequences for choosing one over the other. However, Google does make some design requests for all three configurations so that they may better understand how your site works.
Common mobile design issues
Google lists some mobile design mistakes that it hopes to educate webmasters on in order to create a better mobile web for every user. These consist of:
- Offering a user unplayable videos
- Faulty or inconsistent mobile redirects
- Pages designed for desktop that are erroneous on mobile
- App download presentations
- Irrelevant cross-linking between desktop and mobile sites
- Slow loading, heavy page weight mobile sites
Google offer several developer articles on how to get the most out of your mobile website.
Will creating a great mobile experience offer me a good ROI?
51Degrees.mobi device detection offers web developers the tools to be able to convert existing big-screen, desktop content, cost effectively to mobile.
Google have stated that Responsive Web Design is their preferred mobile approach. However this is for selfish reasons regarding usage of their data centre resources rather than best practice.
In reality Google are actually recommending using whatever mobile optimisation techniques work best for your users and commending great mobile design as a whole. Facebook, Apple, Twitter and LinkedIn all have separate mobile experiences which better suit their heavy mobile interactivity. The most mobile friendly news publishers in the UK use separate mobile sites.
If you are unsure which mobile optimisation techniques are right for your website then take the 51Degress.mobi RESS test.