Small screen or “mobile” devices have finally overtaken traditional laptops and desktops as the most popular way to browse the Internet.
This not only explains Google’s algorithm shifts to re-rank mobile-friendly websites higher in search engine results, but also reinforces why it is in every blogger’s, business owner’s and entrepreneur’s best interests to ensure the most mobile-friendly website.
In this article, learn 8 simple steps to follow for building a mobile-friendly website.
Step 1: Study current site analytics thoroughly
Any site design or redesign should build on the strengths of a previous site. Here, analysis of analytics will offer critical insight into the following:
- What type of information users are seeking when they access the site.
- What the most common tasks are (for example, signing up for an email list group, making a purchase, clipping coupons, reading blog posts, et al).
- Which pages generate the most hits and in what order (this analytic speaks directly to site navigation).
Step 2: Emphasize simplicity of function
A mobile user doesn’t want to sift through a mountain of information to find what they are seeking. Mobile users typically have both less time and less patience when accessing the web from a small screen device.
This makes simplicity the win-win of the mobile marketing world. A mobile website that uses its own analytics to streamline and simplify mobile users’ experiences will move up ever higher in the search engine rankings.
Step 3: Focus on thematic consistency
A successful mobile-friendly website will not appear to be fundamentally different from its full site counterpart. This is often referred to as “responsive web design,” which basically translates to mean that the site template itself is smart enough to sense the screen size of the device it is being accessed from and adjust its display accordingly.
Step 4: Don’t forget about loading speed
If a website doesn’t load on a small screen mobile device in two seconds or less, you will get at best one more second before 40 percent of site visitors will depart. Most will never return again.
Page loading speed is a function of several components:
- Web-optimized site graphics and images
- Selection of a web host with generous bandwidth per client
- Clean, clear, simple CSS
- Poor cache management
- Too many 301 redirects
Step 5: Choose the right web host
If there is one fact that can be counted in the world of all things web, it is this: there will always be plenty of web hosting providers to choose from. However, it is important to know what to look for to choose a host that will provide maximum performance, uptime and loading speed.
These elements can signal a high quality web hosting provider:
- 99.99 percent uptime
- Providing up-time and reliability guarantees
- Easy integration with third-party tools and apps
- Posted minimum/maximum traffic per hosting (shared, dedicated, et al) options
- Generous bandwidth (20 MB or higher) per site options
- Highly responsive technical and customer service support.
Also be sure to do independent research to read what other users with similar sites say about any given web host before selecting the host. This will offer insight into whether the testimonials and claims on a host’s own website are accurate.
Step 6: Be sure font and button sizes and styles are optimized for mobile viewing
Viewing a site on a smaller screen tablet or phone can make for an uncomfortable experience if font or button sizes are too small. And zoom screen options, while helpful to magnify small text, then reduce some of the functionality of the web page itself.
Ideally, each page of a mobile website should be simple enough to allow for highly viewable font and button sizes on each page. Pages that become too cluttered with images or text or interaction options are pages that are no longer mobile-friendly.
Testing should include users with a variety of finger sizes (to test button size) and users with vision impairment (to test for font size) as well as tests for overall small screen visibility and usability.
Step 7: Forego complicating factors like pop-ups and Flash animation
While these types of tools may be useful when installed on full-screen websites, they are reliably problematic when used for smaller screen site experiences.
Flash may not even work on some mobile device operating systems, and pop-ups can obscure the page on a small screen device to such an extent that the visitor just gives up and leaves.
As well, selecting the simplest and most concise page titles, meta-descriptions and URLs will all help to optimize the new mobile website for higher browser search engine rankings (regardless of the specific browser selected for use on that device).
Step 8: Be sure to run Google’s mobile-friendly web test and speed test
Google’s development team has made two essential tools available for free to website developers: a mobile-friendly test tool and a page speed test tool. Before signing off on a new mobile-friendly website, be sure to run both tools to determine if all objectives have been successfully met.
By following these eight steps to create a website, the end result will be a site that is faster, friendlier and more useful to mobile visitors and desktop/laptop visitors. While it will take more planning and preparation work on the front end, the actual design and implementation process will then proceed faster because the major design details have been worked out in advance.
Testing will also proceed more smoothly because most of the major mobile obstacles and bugs will have been identified and solved for in advance. The reward will be a lovely, responsive site visitors love.