NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE – Think of your first home computer. If it was anything like my family’s first computer, it was large, clunky and slow – the complete opposite of sleek. Today the world of tablet computers and increasingly smarter phones is causing a decline of the desktop computer in favor of something lighter, something more mobile. Many tech journalists are speculating about when mobile search will overpower desktop search. There’s no consensus on exactly when, but everyone knows the day is approaching.
The mobile takeover discussion even flared up at the recent SMX Advanced conference, says Sinai’s founder Ali Husayni. According to Husayni, Google heavyweight Matt Cutts stated developers should focus on finding the point where mobile users will exceed desktop users.
“You really need to be thinking about mobile,” Cutts says. “We’re starting to think a lot about mobile.”
My husband and I own and operate an app development company, so we spend lots of time thinking of the mobile future. And mobile is the future, guys. What we envision is a world where smartphone, tablets, smart watches, or some device we haven’t yet dreamed of will dominate the personal computer world. Then, you’ll plug your smartphone or tablet into a docking station, and that station will display your content on a large, gorgeous touchscreen.
While that vision may not come to complete fruition, what we know is that mobile is extremely important to today’s Web design. It is, I dare say, more important than designing for desktop computers, especially if your customers are finding your site on-the-go and you’re seeing a high bounce rate. That high bounce rate could be due to a cluttered, nightmarish mobile presence.
The best companies out there understand that mobile is their next big fish. PayPal reported a 190 percent increase in mobile payment from the biggest shopping day of the year – Black Friday – from 2011 to 2012. People aren’t just using mobile to find things they want; they’re using mobile devices to make purchases.
If you reach the top of Google and your site isn’t smartphone friendly, you probably won’t stay at the top for long. You can use a Google PageRank checker to see how important Google thinks your site is. Your page rank could be improved if you step up your mobile game. So what can you do to prepare your site for the rise and inevitable takeover of mobile search?
Test Your Site for Mobile
First, evaluate your current site’s strengths and weaknesses in regards to mobile. Visit your site on all the mobile devices you can find. Test your site on iPhones, iPads, Androids, and a variety of tablet computers. An easy way to do this would be to visit a large mobile retailer or a big box store like Best Buy. Take notes on what is good, what could be better.
Some business owners know their own sites so well that they have a skewed perception of a real user’s experience with their site. Ask a few friends (friends of several different generations, if you can find them) to interact with your site on their mobile phone or tablet. You might be surprised when your tester tries to interact with your site in a different way than you do.
It’s also a good idea to test your competitors’ sites on mobile devices. See what they’re doing as far as mobile compatibility; see what works and what doesn’t. Check out some of your favorite blogs or websites on mobile devices too and evaluate them.
Responsive Design with Media Queries
Lorrie Walker wrote a recent article for our blog discussing custom-designed websites. For websites that look good on any screen size, your best bet is to create a custom website that uses responsive design. One way to achieve a responsive design is to use media queries.
Unless you’re a Web developer, you probably aren’t familiar with media queries. That’s OK – the concept is simple. When a user pulls up your website from a smartphone, a fixed-width site (i.e., non-responsive) will shrink down to the size of the user’s screen. Your site may look fantastic on a 13-inch laptop, but shrunk to a 4-inch iPhone screen your images are tiny, your navigation is difficult to see, and your content is unreadable. Sure, the user can pinch and expand his fingers to “zoom in” on your site, but is this the very best user experience you can give your visitors? The answer is no.
An experienced web developer can program your site to “query” (or ask for) the screen size for each user who visits your site. Then your developer can tweak the elements of your website (such as text boxes, images, buttons, etc.) depending on the screen size. For instance, on a tablet computer you can fit multiple columns of pictures beside each other. On a smartphone, your multiple columns of images will now be displayed as one column so the user can scroll through them and see them easily.
Simplify Your Design
When you tested your site on various mobile screens, did you find it cluttered? If so, get rid of the clutter! Users, especially on smaller smartphone screens, don’t want a cluttered page full of advertisements and repetitive buttons. Respect your user and only include the most relevant information on your website – especially on the home screen. If the user wants to know more, let him find it within your website’s navigation. A crisp, clean, concise design will look fabulous on a variety of screen sizes, and it will let your content – the most important part of your site – shine through.
Simplify Your Navigation
When a complex site is viewed on a mobile screen, it’s almost always the navigation that suffers. A difficult to navigate website will most likely mean your visitors will abandon your site quickly. Web visitors aren’t the most patient bunch, so a quick-loading site with simple navigation is best for retaining your visitors’ interest. Think of ways to cut the fat, so to speak, if your site has a large set of navigational buttons. Is there a way to better organize your content? Can the most important navigation elements live at the top of your site? Can you move the less important elements to a navigation bar at the bottom of your site?
Add Touch Features
One of the largest differences between your desktop computer and a mobile device is that mobile devices respond to touch. Users today expect to interact with their devices. Does your site respond to “swipe” gestures to browse through slideshow images? Adding touch features may sound like icing on the cake, but recognizing user gestures can take your site from mobile-friendly to mobile-fantastic!
Google is thinking about mobile, and they certainly should be. You should be, too. Contact Sinai Marketing’s team to receive one of the best consultations you can imagine. Sinai can help you gear up for the mobile revolution while retaining all the great SEO qualities that Google loves.