Is Your Website Ready for Mobile?

Website designers can't treat mobile access as an afterthought anymore. Mobile use on the Internet already exceeds desktop use, and the trend is growing. A site that isn't mobile-ready will lose viewers two ways. First, people will find it hard to use from their phones and won't stay around. Second, search engines will lower its rank.

Mobile is taking over

A 2015 report found that 56% of traffic to leading websites is from mobile devices. Five of the leading ten mobile site categories reported getting at least 60% of their traffic from mobile devices. This doesn't count the many people who reach businesses through mobile applications.

In 2016, over half of all searches came from mobile devices. Search results are often where people first discover sites, and their first impression will be from the mobile version.

Ownership of smartphones has taken off. 77% of Americans own a smartphone, compared to just 35% in 2011. Among people who make more than $75,000 a year, the ownership rate is 93%. In addition, half of Americans own a tablet computer. One adult in ten uses a smartphone exclusively for Internet access.

Online time on desktop and laptop devices actually fell in 2016. People still place most online orders from desktop computers, but their initial engagement and browsing more often comes from mobile devices.

Mobile is central to SEO

According to Google's Webmaster Central Blog, the search engine is moving toward relying primarily on the mobile version of a site. It will use the mobile version more heavily when ranking pages, extracting metadata, and displaying snippets. This is still in the experimental stages but could become standard practice soon.

Once this happens, having a weak mobile site could be worse than not having a mobile-friendly version at all. At one time websites often used separate desktop and mobile sites, with limited information available in the mobile version, but that approach no longer works well. There are too many kinds of devices, and 2-in-1 computers blur the line between traditional computers and mobile devices.

Responsive design lets websites win

It's now necessary for sites to adopt the responsive approach. "Responsive" means that the page responds, through JavaScript and CSS, to its environment. This includes but isn't limited to screen size. Common adaptations include:

  • Changing the page layout to line up items vertically rather than side by side.
  • Replacing sidebars with menus or popups.
  • Reorganizing tables to take less width.
  • Delivering fewer or smaller images.
  • Switching between portrait and landscape mode with device rotation.
  • Hiding or eliminating optional features.

These changes don't just improve readability, they make pages load faster on mobile devices. Speed is all important. 40% of mobile users abandon a page that doesn't load within three seconds, and one second of delay can reduce conversions by 7%.

People using smartphones don't conduct long browsing sessions. A good responsive page makes the most important information prominent, economizing on decoration and long sales pitches.

A responsive site makes the question of whether the search engine is looking at the mobile or desktop version moot. It's the same page either way. Users can bookmark a page on a mobile device and view it later on a desktop, or vice versa.

Building a responsive site

Major website construction platforms recognize the importance of responsive design and support it. WordPress requires using a responsive theme, and there are many to choose from. Each theme takes its own approach, so there's something for every site style. SquareSpace templates perform the same function. All its templates provide basic responsiveness, and many have mobile styles to customize the appearance on a small screen.

BJC Branding offers elegant website design with WordPress or SquareSpace. We can build you a site that will show up in search pages, look good on both large and small screens, and help your business to grow.