If you had not realized that the Internet is now principally viewed on mobile devices, you can be forgiven. The pace of change has been dramatic. Just over four years ago, we were discussing questions such as Should You Offer a Mobile Version of your Website?‘ and could read articles on the pro and cons of developing a mobile version of your website. At that time the number of visitors using smart phones to view websites was very much in the minority, and you could question whether the effort was justified. Many just hoped (assumed) that whatever a mobile visitor might see would be ‘good enough’.
The World Has Gone Mobile
Only two years later in 2011, we saw that smartphone sales exceeded those of PCs for the first time. When you consider that the analysis included tablet computers such as iPad in the category of PCs, it is a truly remarkable shift. Of course most of the development work done on website companies is probably done on PCs.
That could mean there is a perception that PC viewers are the more important market, but that is erroneous. In that same year however, there was a growing proportion of website developers who were following the precept of Mobile First. Google was one of the strongest proponents of this, and insisted that its developers should follow that same rule of Mobile First.
An additional important consideration is that smartphones and tablets are driving faster growth in Ecommerce sales:
Overall, eMarketer estimates, US retail mcommerce sales will reach nearly $39 billion in 2013, up 56.5% over 2012 and almost triple the amount spent in 2011.
That’s a powerful reason for making sure that you can be part of this online mobile marketplace.
In 2013, the world has completely swung over to mobile development. The watchword is that if your website is not Mobile Responsive then you should be updating it. The biggest hurdle to overcome here of course is that small screen size on a mobile device. Any images must be so chosen that they display well and do not break up the word content in some awkward fashion.
The whole question of usability must be re-examined since viewers do not wish to scroll forever down a screen to find what they want. Equally important is how you present buttons that can be clicked – which is a major challenge with the small screen real estate. This is such a factor that many website owners are giving up the struggle to have a mobile friendly website and are instead offering an App with more limited functionality.
For those who do not wish to follow the App route, another approach is to develop different Web pages for different devices. In this case the website server detects the user agent which is seeking to download the Web page and will serve a web page appropriate to that user agent. In this way the Web page is designed specifically for the functionality of that particular device, which could be a cell phone or a smartphone, a tablet or a PC.
For those who do accept the challenge of creating a mobile friendly website, another factor may be less visibly obvious, but can be the real killer.
Mobile Devices Demand Higher Download Speeds
Viewers on a mobile device are often moving fast and do not wish to wait. If a web page takes too long to download, then the viewer may just move elsewhere in frustration and dissatisfaction. To lose a viewer that you have managed to bring to your website is particularly galling. That is reason enough to put this as a priority in your website development.
Now Google Search Will Rank Mobile-speedier Websites Higher
Google had already signaled changes in rankings of smartphone search results and pointed out some mistakes that should be avoided. However Google has now upped the ante on mobile website download speed. Google’s Matt Cutts hinted at SMX Advanced that mobile site speed could soon become a ranking factor.
Google is always striving to present results in search engine query reports, which are most likely to satisfy the searcher. They wish to avoid any user clicking on a search result which will frustrate the searcher. Google made site speed a signal several years ago, and it looks like they’ll be taking that a step further with mobile in mind.
How To Check Your Website’s Mobile Download Speed
Measuring the download speed for a website as viewed on a PC is relatively straightforward. A number of tools are available for this, such as that provided by Pingdom.
When it comes to measuring download speed for mobile devices, the problem is an order of magnitude more complex. The download speed may vary widely with different devices and you need to use some tool that can factor this in. That provided by Mobitest is fairly flexible in this regard.
If you have Google Analytics installed on your website, then you can view results on download speed in the section on Content. A good reference on the issues involved is provided on Google’s Web page on Site Speed. Google does provide detailed advice on how to speed up Web pages in its Web page on PageSpeed Insights.
This will analyze the content of any web page you insert, and will then generate suggestions to make that page faster. As they point out, reducing page load times can reduce bounce rates and will also increase conversion rates. As noted above, the extra bonus that Google is now offering is that the Web page may well rank higher in search queries.
Getting Mobile-speedier May Not Be Easy
Given the huge multiplicity of mobile devices, providing a satisfactory viewing experience on all of them is no easy matter. Google offers recommendation to webmasters who want to serve content in different (optimized) formats for desktop and mobile users, primarily using smartphones. They also offer advice on Responsive design, which is their preferred approach.
That is all very well but as Cindy Krum points out Mobile Site Configuration can be difficult when dealing with large, enterprise-level websites that use a CDN (Content Delivery Network) to speed up content delivery. She has a good listing of the yet to be resolved problems and concludes with the following:
I think most SEOs that are working with responsive design mobile content are desperate for Google to really do something good here – we are tired of the confusion and inconsistencies, and we are just begging for meaningful rules and guidelines that we can actually follow without compromising load-time or the functionality of our CDNs.
Thankfully those of us with more modest websites will not run into these problems as we attempt to give the best possible user experience to our mobile visitors. … and we know we will see more as Google takes account in its mobile search algorithms.