Mobile devices are overtaking the desktop as the primary means of accessing the Internet. Mobile web traffic increased by 78 per cent over the last year and is expected to increase by 300 per cent within the next four years, by which time it will account for more than half of all web traffic in the western world. Can you afford to ignore mobile users?
Designing for Mobile
One of the biggest challenges that webmasters face is ensuring that their site is accessible to mobile and desktop users. You can be fairly confident that most desktop users, at least in western markets, have a display of at least 1024x768, or much bigger if they are not using a Netbook. Mobile devices, however, have a much wider range of displays, processors and browser capabilities. An iPad can handle a traditional desktop website, but someone using a low-end mobile phone with a small display and a slow mobile connection will struggle with a bloated, desktop-designed page.
If your site takes a long time to load, or requires an excessive amount of scrolling to get to important content, then you will lose that user. This is why it is so important to design your website from the ground up to support mobile devices.
During the early days of the mobile web, it was common for webmasters to maintain several versions of a website, each aimed at different devices. This was OK for small, simple websites, but it becomes problematic for websites that have a lot of pages, or which need to be updated frequently. For this reason, modern CMS systems have moved away from the multi-website approach to catering for mobile devices and instead use something known as responsive design.
Responsive design is the technical term for a website that is designed in such a way that it will resize and reorganise itself to fit the screen size and orientation of the device from which it is accessed. Many responsive designs also serve up different images depending on whether the user is accessing the site via an iPad with a high-resolution retina display or an older mobile device that does not need such high-resolution images.
Google has started placing a lot of importance on mobile SEO and is penalising websites that do not cater properly to mobile devices. If your website redirects mobile users to a home page, rather than a mobile version of the page that they are trying to visit, or it does not render properly on mobile devices, then your rankings will suffer.
Even if your target audience is one that does not currently spend a lot of time using mobile devices, it is worth future-proofing your website. Mobile is the future and businesses that embrace it will be in a good position to access the ever-increasing pool of mobile users. If you have a website that was designed for the desktop, talk to your web developers to see if they can update the code to make your site mobile-friendly.