When you watch science fiction of yesteryear, it’s easy to laugh at what people imagined the future would be like, or to feel a bit indignant about what we wish we had—hoverboards, anyone? While we may not have flying cars or cities in the sky, we do have something pretty incredible: supercomputers that we carry around in our pockets.
Smart phones have changed a lot over the last decade—from the way we keep in touch with friends and family to the way we share information. For businesses, things have radically transformed when it comes to the way we browse the web. Nowadays, having a mobile-friendly website design is key to business success. Now is definitely the time to get started if you don’t have a mobile-friendly site.
Why Make Your Website Mobile-Friendly
In many countries, the number of smart phones in use has surpassed the number of personal computers. Even in countries where desktops still outnumber mobile smart devices, mobile devices have much higher amounts of usage. In the United States, for example, 63 percent of all web traffic in 2017 came from mobile devices. When people want to do a quick search, no matter their location, they are more likely to use their phone or tablet than to head to their desk to use their laptop or desktop.
The question is—what does this mean for your business? In essence, when someone has a need for the products or services you offer, chances are they’re going to pull their phone out of their pocket and Google some keywords related to your business. Next, they’ll click on the links their search returns, hoping to find the best option for them. The first thing they’ll notice when they click on your link is your website and the design of the page.
You might be thinking that your website design is great and doesn’t need improvement. You or your web designer may have spent hours at the computer agonizing over every little detail, making certain that the layout was intuitive, the graphics gripping, and the content stellar. This is amazing but skips over a very important fact: mobile devices display pages differently than laptops and desktops.
Viewing a non-mobile-friendly version of a website on a smart device is frustrating at best. Most times you have to zoom in to be able to read the words and scroll from side to side to finish reading a sentence. Images, videos, and graphics look terrible and things tend to get buggy. The experience is so terrible that there’s only one likely outcome: the reader will leave the site and go on to find another option they can easily browse on their device.
As a business, this is devastating. Every reader who clicks on your website is a potential customer. If they click away from your website, that’s business lost. Should they then go to a competitor, that’s potential business you just handed over.
Part of any good digital marketing strategy is having the best website—no matter how it’s being viewed and on what device. If yours isn’t yet a mobile-friendly site, now is the time to make that happen.
Determining if Your Website Is Mobile-Friendly
If you’ve ever viewed your site on a phone or tablet, you most likely already know if you have a mobile-friendly website or not. Assuming you only view your site on a personal computer, you have two options to find out if your website already offers a mobile-friendly version: get on a smart device and check or use Google’s Webmaster Tool. To use Google’s tool, simply insert your URL into the text field and let it analyze your site. Within a few seconds, you’ll have your answer. If the results show that you don’t have the best website for mobile viewing, you’ll need to correct this issue as soon as possible.
What Makes a Website Mobile-Friendly
In theory, making a mobile-friendly version of a website should be easy. You squish it all down, then adjust the size of things so it all displays correctly and beautifully—right? Unfortunately, that’s not the case when it comes to website design. When you move from theory to practice, things are much more complicated. There’s a lot that goes into designing a mobile-friendly site. Below are just a few of the factors that must be considered.
The average internet user has changed a lot since we first started browsing the World Wide Web. In the ‘90s, we were fine with waiting minutes for our computers to connect to the internet. Websites could take minutes to load, and we didn’t question taking hours just to download some music.
In 2018, our patience is no longer so endless. Rather than expecting slow loading times and happily waiting for a given page to slowly fill the screen, modern users will wait two seconds or less for a site to load. If it isn’t ready within that timeframe, they’re likely to click away and find a more responsive site.
Modern internet users are savvy individuals who are aware of the various scams and risks they can get caught up in online. With any website, they’re always looking for important security features. If they fail to find them—or Google points out that these security features are missing—they’ll leave. This is even more true when it comes to eCommerce websites.
No matter how secure your payment methods are, if your website isn’t properly secured through HTTPS with an SSL certificate, customers will be hesitant about spending money on your site. Keep in mind that even if you don’t accept payment through your site, without these security measures, many mobile users will not be able to view your site. Google Chrome is the most commonly used mobile browser and its security alerts make it difficult to access non-secure sites.
When researching mobile website design, there are two terms you’re likely to come across: mobile-responsive and mobile-friendly. Oftentimes, they are used interchangeably, but in reality, they refer to two different things. What’s the difference?
Mobile-Responsive Website Design: Code in the website script automatically resizes the desktop version of the website when viewed on a mobile device, squishing things down and often requiring zooming to read the text.
Mobile-Friendly Website Design: A mobile-friendly version of the desktop website that’s fully designed for viewing on smart devices. Rather than shrinking down the desktop website to fit smaller screens, each element of the site is selected specifically for optimal viewing and function when using a smart device.
If your goal is to engage viewers and get them to select your business—and that certainly is the goal—you’ll need a mobile-friendly design, not just one that’s mobile-responsive.
Not every smart device is the same. If you’ve ever struggled to shop for a smart phone or tablet, you know this well. If your website is truly optimized for mobile viewing, it must be flexible enough to run optimally on many different devices. In order for this to happen, the site must be able to determine specific characteristics of the device it’s being viewed on.
Mobile devices, for example, come in many different sizes. Something that displays well on a large iPad may not look so nice on a small smart phone. Mobile-friendly websites can automatically adjust to the size of the device viewing it—if the right protocols are put in place. In this case, this means it will “ask” the device how large it is, then adjust the display settings to suit the screen. A mobile-friendly website will also configure images to display correctly, which is essential when your products and services are being shown.
Not all that long ago, good website design meant complex layouts with multiple dropdown sections lining the top of the screen. For a desktop viewing experience, that’s fine—though a bit outdated. When viewing a website on a mobile device, things are much different nowadays.
The main thing mobile viewers want is simplicity. Simple designs load faster, are easier to read, and are easier to navigate. They facilitate ease of use and place the bars and tabs discreetly to the side, often hidden away unless clicked on. Colors are likewise unassuming, preventing things from becoming too busy or having contrasting colors that impact readability.
In essence, you want your mobile site to be described as simple, chic, readable, and intuitive. Fun, fancy, and flashy are no longer desirable adjectives when it comes to your website.
It’s always tempting to play around with fonts. We understand the temptation; there are so many options out there and using a unique option is sure to make you stand out from your competitors. Unfortunately, unique and custom fonts—except for perhaps in a banner—don’t help you stand out in a good way.
The internet generation is very particular about its fonts. Comic Sans is pretty much universally detested and Papyrus isn’t acceptable outside of Avatar posters. Rather than opting for a more unusual choice, stick to the classics as they read best on mobile devices. Should you be unsure when it comes to some classic options, choose a font that’s Sans Serif—these fonts are easiest to read, especially for programs and apps that assist people with disabilities.