With smartphones being an integral part of everyday life with almost every adult owning one, and seemingly checking them every minute, the importance of a small business having a mobile-friendly website has never been so pronounced.
There are three big reasons why a business owner should understand the importance of a mobile-friendly website.
First, a study by Google shows just how important a mobile-friendly site is as 67 per cent of those questioned say they are more likely to buy from a mobile-optimised website and 61 per cent say they would be more likely to leave a site that is not mobile-friendly.
The second reason you should make sure your website is mobile-friendly is that Google is strict on how it ranks websites in the search engine results pages.
For many businesses, Google provides a significant number of visitors and sales to its websites. And with the continued increase in visitors from mobile devices, some businesses cannot afford to miss out on this traffic.
Following Google’s ‘Mobilegeddon’ update in April 2015 your website runs the risk of not appearing in mobile results at all if it does not consider your site mobile-friendly.
Finally, a mobile-friendly website is key for your customers and website users. In 2016 customers now expect to be able to navigate around a website on mobile devices just as easily as their PC. Without a useable mobile site, you risk losing potential customers, enquiries and sales.
Here are four tools to help you check if your website is mobile-friendly:
Google’s mobile-friendly test
One of the quickest ways to check is to make use of the free mobile-friendly test provided by Google, the Mobile-Friendly Test Tool.
You can enter any URL from your website into this handy tool to test whether or not it is mobile-friendly in Google. Although the tool won’t test your whole website it gives you a great indication of how Google views your website.
Should you have any errors Google will also let you know which areas failed the test and give you suggestions on which areas need optimising.
Some of the common issues are:
• Unplayable content
While playable content isn’t always best used on mobile devices your online business you may want to use it on some of your web pages. However it’s all too easy for your playable content to become unplayable on mobile devices due to it not resizing properly.
This causes it to partially disappear off the screen which prevents the user from being able to play your content.
• Slow mobile pages
Page load speed is an important factor to take into consideration. Many of your customers will be impatient and won’t want to wait for very long for you pages to load. Google recommends a 3-second page load speed and is a ranking factor.
• Text too small to read
If your text is too small then it can make it difficult for your customers to read on their mobile devices. In order to avoid being flagged up for this make sure that your text is a size which makes it legible on mobile screens.
• Links too close together
Having links too close together creates a usability issue for your customers when they are viewing your business online via their mobile devices. Doing this makes it more difficult for your users to click on their intended destination as they could just as easily click on another page by accident.
• Touch elements too close
Similar to your links being too close together, by having touch elements, such as buttons and navigational links, too close together can cause your customer to accidentally click on one they didn’t intend to.
• Mobile viewport not set
The mobile viewport gives a browser instructions on how to control a page’s dimension and scaling on a mobile device. If there is not a mobile viewport set then it means your website will not resize to best fit a mobile screen. In effect it will force your customers to have to scroll not just vertically down the page but also horizontally as content will be displaying off the screen.
• Annoying interstitials
Earlier this year Google warned that it would penalise mobile sites if they use interstitials, if they partially or completely cover the contents of the page a user is visiting.
This could be mailing list sign-up forms or pop-up ads. Not all interstitials will get you penalised as Google has stated that ‘reasonable’ banner ads are still OK.
Google’s mobile-friendly test tool shows you how it views your webpage and if your website is being viewed as not mobile-friendly, then you can expect your rankings in Google’s search results to suffer as a result.
• Google’s PageSpeed Insights
Being mobile-friendly is not just about your website layout, but the page load speed also plays an important role in meeting Google’s criteria. The search engine giant also has a Pagespeed Insights tool to help you check your page load speed. This tool is also free to everyone.
This tool also only allows you to check one URL at a time rather than your entire website. Once you have run the test Google will then give you two scores out of 100 – one for speed and the other for user experience.
You will be given a list of areas where your website performs well and other areas where you can improve. There can be a number of reasons why your page load speed is being hindered. Some of the common issues are:
• Unoptimised images – the bigger an image is the longer it will take for it to be displayed on your website, increasing your page load speed. There are some quick and easy ways of addressing this. Firstly, you can reduce the image file size by reducing the size of your images, or you can run the image through compression software such as FileOptimizer before uploading it.
• Analytics data – When it comes to keeping track of how much traffic your online business receives, Google Analytics is a powerful tool to be making use of. This free tool is also an excellent way of seeing how your customers are interacting with your website. When taking a look at how mobile-friendly your site is you will need to look at the mobile overview section which you can find under ‘Audience’.
Once you have navigated your way to this particular area of the Google Analytics you will be able to see the data for desktop, tablet and mobile. This allows you to easily compare the three together.
One thing you to keep an eye on when comparing the three device categories is the bounce rate as this is the main indicator of how each device category is interacting with your online business.
The bounce rate refers to the percentage of your customers who leave your website without exploring past the first page they land on. Ideally you want a low bounce rate.
A high bounce rate in your mobile device category is a good indicator that your online business needs to be optimised in order to be mobile-friendly for your customers.
Although Google might be deeming your website as mobile-friendly through the testing tools previously mentioned, the content and design might not be providing the best experience for your mobile users.
This means that your online business could be missing out on sales. Potentially it could be a small fix such as making the buttons on your website more visible, or it could involve more work such a rebrand to ensure that your online business is appealing to your customers.
• Test on your mobile
Using your own mobile device is one of the most overlooked ways of testing to see how mobile responsive your website is. Simply putting five minutes aside to take a look around your online business can give you a great idea of how well your website is adapted for being used on mobile devices. In order to get the most recent version of how your website looks make sure that you clear your cache and browsing data before you begin testing.
Here are some key things to look out for if you are testing on your mobile:
• Does all of your content fit on the page when you are viewing it?
• Is anything disappearing off of the screen when you are viewing your web pages?
• Is the text used on your website readable in different lights?
• Can you read the text on your website when in a dark room and bright light?
• Are the links on your website easy to click on?
• Are links on your website clearly visible and readable?
• Is your key information like contact details readily available and clearly visible?
• Are your buttons big and enticing enough on your website that they stand out from the rest of the content on the page?
When checking your website it is also important to be mindful of appropriate image sizes, as large images will push your content further down the page. When this happens it means more scrolling for your customers which often can discourage them from carrying on with making a purchase on your website.
It is also a good idea to ask friends and colleagues to take a look at your online business if they have different phone models.
Or with a little budget UserTesting.com allows you to get feedback from people all over the world, recorded on video. Just remember to make sure they clear they cache and browsing data before they take a look around.
Which is best?
On their own all of the free tests which have been mentioned are great tools to use in order to see how mobile-friendly your online business is.
They are however best used collectively if you are willing to invest the time into making sure your website is mobile-friendly. Using them collectively allows you to get a more completed and detailed idea of how well adapted your website is to mobile use.
Even when your website is considered to be mobile-friendly it is something that you should make sure to monitor, especially when making any changes to your online business.
In order to avoid being caught out you should ideally run these simple tests every now and again. If you have done any development work to your website then you should make sure to include them as part of your post launch checklist.
Rhianna Camp is a web developer at Receptional.