If it seems like everyone is more attached than ever before to their mobile devices, you’re right. The digital world keeps shrinking, from desktop to laptop to tablet and phone screens. While keeping pace with rapid change can be tricky, it’s not impossible.
A sizable chunk of the population is spending more time inhaling info on the go than ever before: 65 percent of digital media is now consumed on mobile devices. Having a website that is ready to be viewed and consumed anywhere, on any device, is increasingly an essential component of doing business today.
Two key phrases turn up often when talking about portable websites: mobile-friendly and responsive. It’s important to note there’s a difference between these terms, and deciding which approach to take will guide many development decisions.
Let’s review the website design options:
- A mobile-friendly website shrinks to fit the size of the display screen. Users may have to pinch, scroll, and zoom to access and read everything, but the design and functionality of the website will be the same across all screen sizes.
- Responsive sites are built using flexibly-sized elements, to create a flexible layout. As screen sizes shift with different devices, the layout rearranges to present the best possible fit.
- Responsive shouldn’t be confused with adaptive, which is when a website detects the device being used and displays a layout specific to that device.
There are multiple benefits to restructuring your website with a mind to new devices.
Simply put, the future is mobile
As anyone with a broadband connection and a search query knows, Google sets the rules of the road in the online realm. In mid-2016, Google began adjusting its search algorithms to favor mobile websites, a direct response to how quickly accessing media on portable devices is outpacing desktop screens. The consequence is that brands wishing to remain relevant must design with mobile friendliness in mind or risk falling to the bottom of the Google Search results.
Mobile favored over apps by employees and consumers
When considering remaking the desktop experience for mobile devices, it can be tempting to think an all-inclusive smartphone app is the perfect solution. “Building a large app audience should not be the end goal,” Matt Asay, vice president of mobile for Adobe Cloud cautions. Users often default to what amounts to the least amount of work and what they are most familiar with—web, with no downloads required. Once a core of engaged users out of the overall audience has emerged they can be funneled into an app.
The need for speed
A crucial element of the mobile experience is invisible to the naked eye. Speed is routinely singled out as the most important factor in deploying mobile websites. Websites that aren’t mobile optimized tend to load and function slower than their optimized counterparts. To put it plainly—if a website is slow, users aren’t going to stick around.
Restructuring a website for mobile could yield better SEO
Shaking up a website’s navigation design with an eye toward mobile users might lead to better search results. Streamlining your website’s menu structure, for example, could benefit both mobile and desktop users with a better experience. Consider if a variety of landing pages may create a better user experience on any device over a complex system of submenus.
For the proactive site manager or developer, Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test page and Accelerated Mobile Project (AMP) site, where they offer detailed information about mobile web design and implementation, can be great launch points in optimizing a website for mobile use. Adapting an existing desktop-bound site for the mobile experience can be challenging, but results in a disproportionately positive return on investment.