Mobile web design used to be thought of as particularly innovative web design — something that was needed for high-tech business websites, perhaps, but not your average hardware store or sandwich shop website. As of today, however, that thinking must change. About 80% of the adults online now own smartphones, and they want to be able to use those phones to visit all the same sites they used to visit via their desktops. When those people encounter sites that aren’t mobile friendly, they tend to feel that businesses don’t care about them; that’s inarguably bad for a business’ bottom line.
If that weren’t enough in terms of motivation, Google announced recently that as of April 21, 2015, mobile usability will be a ranking signal for all searches conducted on mobile devices. What does that mean, exactly? Essentially, it means that if you own a business and don’t ensure that you have mobile solutions in place by that date, you should expect a significant decrease in your web traffic. And if you’ve been relying on that web traffic for customers and leads, as most businesses do, that means neglecting mobile web design is a mistake you can’t afford to make.
What Mobile-Friendly Looks Like
At this point, you’re probably wondering what, exactly, qualifies a site as being “mobile friendly.” In advance of the mobile ranking algorithm rollout, Google has provided a number of tools that webmasters can use to check if their sites qualify. In general, these are the things you should be looking out for:
- Viewing Ports: It’s important that no content be “offscreen” and therefore unviewable.
- Text Sizes: All text should be of a readable size, even on a small screen.
- Clicks and Links: Users should have to click as few times as possible (scrolling is preferred), and links should not be placed so close together that a user might accidentally click the wrong one.
- Zoom and Pan: Users should not be needing to zoom and pan in order to access content or see it at a comfortable viewable size.
- Load Times: Sites should load quickly on mobile devices. About 40% of people will simply leave a site if it takes more than three seconds to load.
About Responsive Web Design
If your website isn’t up to date and you’re rushing to get with the program before the April deadline, you should know that the latest web development trends heavily favor responsive designs. Here’s what that means: Most websites used to have a mobile version of their website to which mobile users were directed (m.yoursite.com, for example). If users preferred, they could switch to the desktop, or “full” version of the site (yoursite.com).
The rise of responsive web design has changed that model, however, by making it possible for one site to serve users on all devices because responsive sites automatically reconfigure content based on the user’s device. If you’re going to be getting a new website designed anyway, you might as well stick to the latest trends and opt for a responsive site.
Do you have any questions or thoughts to add regarding mobile web design? Join the discussion in the comments.