Smartphones are now the main way we access the internet. We spend twice as long surfing on mobiles than on computers and use them to perform more searches and view more web pages. With this shift in surfing habits, it’s absolutely essential that websites are mobile-friendly, otherwise businesses will lose out. In this post, we’ll explain what you need to do to make your site truly mobile friendly.
What is a mobile-friendly website?
A mobile-friendly website is one which optimises its display for devices such as smartphones and tablets. Achieving this requires the content to fit different screen sizes, have minimised scrolling, be easy to navigate on a small device, load quickly over a wi-fi or phone network and use technology that is supported by mobile devices.
Why you need a mobile friendly website
Standard websites do not display well on mobile screens. When a page appears, everything looks tiny. Zooming in to read the text means most of the page disappears off screen by the time the font is large enough. Carrying out any kind of action, such as clicking a link, choosing a menu option or filling in a form is difficult and feels clumsy: users frequently end up clicking on the wrong link. In addition, images and videos are not easily viewable and any popups can take over the entire screen and can be a challenge to remove.
When people land on these sites they get a bad user experience. Many will leave straight away, increasing your site’s bounce rate, and of those that do stay, few will want to use the site to make a purchase. Who would want to type their credit card details onto a screen they can hardly read or see? This is a real issue. As 56% or retail searches are now done on mobiles, websites which aren’t mobile friendly are missing out on a lot of business.
And to add to the problem, Google now ranks websites on how mobile friendly they are. Those which do not display properly on mobiles won’t be showing up in search results – especially those made on mobile devices.
Key priorities for a mobile website
When creating a mobile-friendly website you need to think carefully about the goals you want it to achieve. For example, your website might be there to provide information, create leads and sell products. If so, users will visit because they want to find out that information, enquire about your services or buy those products. A good mobile-friendly website will focus on making all those goals as easy as possible to achieve on a mobile device.
One of the first priorities will be in making navigation easy so that mobile visitors can access the information they want quickly and without hassle. The longer it takes from arrival on the website to clicking on the Pay Now button, the more people will abandon your site. Complicated websites put people off; they’ll find a competitor’s site that makes the process easier.
It’s not just navigation that needs to be considered; all the actions that need to be carried out should be mobile friendly. Are form fields easy to fill in? Are buttons large enough for fingers to touch? Is information laid out logically? Is the payment process easy to complete?
All these things need to be considered for their ease of use on a mobile device.
Technical features of a mobile-friendly website
Here is a list of some of the technical features you will need to make your website mobile-friendly.
- The website display should be responsive to the screen size of the device on which it is viewed. This means that the width of the page is the same width of the screen, whether held portrait or landscape, so there is no need to scroll horizontally. In addition, images (and video) will be resized and features such as sidebars will be repositioned more conveniently on the page.
- The website needs to be built using mobile-compatible software. Some software used in standard websites, such as Flash, will not work on many mobile devices. As mobile users won’t be able to access the features that use these kinds of software, you should not use them.
- As touch screens need fingers for carrying out actions, it’s important that the screen is laid out in a finger friendly fashion. For example, make sure that links are far enough apart that users don’t end up touching the wrong one by mistake. Making them zoom in to do this is not making the page mobile friendly.
- To make sure content is easy to read, check that you use the right font types and sizes and have reasonable line spacing.
- Make sure any forms that need filling in have text boxes which are readable when completing. Remember that the keyboard will take up much of the screen when people type and that lots of mistakes can be made when typing on a smartphone because of the size of the letter keys and the problems caused by predictive text.
- The page needs to load quickly. Mobile users won’t always be downloading your site using superfast broadband, they’ll be out and about, using 3G and 4G networks and sketchy public wi-fi. Your page needs to load quickly everywhere.
Different ways of creating a mobile-friendly website
There are three different ways you can make your website mobile-friendly. The most common way is to use a responsive website theme. This allows you to create one version of your website with the same URL and HTML code but which displays the content differently for different devices. Most website themes and templates developed today come with a responsive display.
An alternative is to create separate websites for different screen sizes. Doing this requires each website version to have a different URL. If you’ve ever seen a web address beginning with ‘m.’ e.g. m.bbc.co.uk, you will have seen this in action. When a mobile user searches for the main website, the server is able to detect that the request is from a mobile device and redirects the user to the mobile (m.) version of the website.
The final method is known as ‘dynamic serving’. Here the website uses the same URL for all devices but applies different HTML code depending on which device it is serving. It understands which version of HTML to send from detecting the browser being used.
How do you know if your site is mobile friendly?
When you have made the changes you wish to put in place, you should check whether your updated website is mobile friendly by using Google’s Mobile Friendly Test. It’s easy to do; just type your homepage URL into the search box and click enter. Google will then let you know if your site is good to go or if there are improvements to be made.
Hopefully, from reading this article, you will have a better understanding of what a mobile-friendly site is, why you need one and what things you need to do to make your site mobile-friendly.
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