The Ultimate Guide to Developing Mobile-friendly Websites

6October 2019

Mobile internet usage has worked its way into the daily life of smartphone and tablet users, to enable consumers access and share information on the go.

We have entered a new age of internet usage, one that mobile internet usage is dominant. It is almost three years since the overall internet usage on mobile phones far exceeded desktop devices, and still, websites do not have mobile-friendly websites! Total surprise.

Having a mobile-friendly website is very important to your online presence. In many countries, smartphone traffic exceeds desktop traffic.

In this guide, we shall be discussing all matters of mobile-friendly websites. We shall look at what constitutes a site being termed mobile-friendly, why a business should aim at developing mobile-friendly websites, steps to making a site mobile-friendly and ways to optimize a site for mobile.

Let’s get started right away!

What is a mobile-friendly website?

mobile friendly website

When we talk about mobile-friendly websites, many people confuse the term with responsive design. However, the two are slightly different as we are going to see. A responsive design denotes one that can automatically adjust to the size of the device used to view it.

A mobile-friendly website is one that is designed to work exactly the same way across devices. A site that is mobile-friendly is well optimized to offer a good mobile experience for mobile users. There are four core elements that define a mobile-friendly website. These include;

Responsive Page Display

Responsive design is the foundation of a mobile-friendly website. Without a responsive design, a tablet or smartphone user who visits a site will see a very miniature version of a desktop site. This means they will have to scroll vertically and horizontally to find anything.

Dangers of scrolling that way is that they may get frustrated and leave your site. Responsive design displays a site properly on whatever type of device a visitor is using, be it in portrait or landscape mode.

Readable Fonts

A mobile-friendly site includes fonts that are easy for mobile users to read. As a site owner, you may want to play around with some fonts especially if you prefer certain typefaces. No one wants to read tiny texts, and this makes readable fonts a very important aspect of mobile-friendly design.

Proper text formatting

Your block of texts should be short and easy to break up. They should be easy to read, defined by good headlines and bulleted lists. It may be very hard for the eye to track lines that are close together on small screens. This calls for the need to eliminate big paragraphs.

Optimized Media Display

You need to test your images, video, and infographics to ensure they look right on tablets and phones. They should be easily readable without the need of users to scroll or resize their display.

Why you need a mobile-friendly website

There are hundreds of reasons why businesses need to have a mobile-friendly website, but let’s narrow down these reasons to three main ones.

Mobile users buy more

 The mobile is very convenient. With mobile, there is a little load time, no waiting around and your device doesn’t need to startup. Mobile-friendly sites can be accessed from almost anywhere and this helps in making impulse buys.

People are not hanging around the idea of purchasing when they get home to their PC. They want to do it anywhere, everywhere seamlessly. Accessible websites facilitate the customer experience. The better the experience, the more likely they are going to make a purchase.

‘On average, desktop users purchase at least once a week, whereas 35 percent of mobile users make a purchase at least once a week. When they come across a site that is hard to navigate on mobile, they will take their business somewhere else.

It is cost-effective

Responsive website designs ensure that pages adapt to the device that is used to view them. This ensures a consistent structure and experience. Without a responsive design, sites would either look outdated or will load different versions which increase their design and maintenance cost.

A mobile-friendly design massively improves search engine optimization, which can make a huge difference to your marketing budget. Almost 60 percent of searches made on Google happen using mobile. A good example is how 90 percent of Facebook users perform their operations using mobile.

When people are commuting, you will find most of them on social media. When people are accessing those social sites, they want to have a seamless experience.

User Experience

These days, user experience is everything. A positive experience occurs from accessing an intuitive site that doesn’t require users to keep on zooming to find something. Doing so builds frustrations as they try to navigate to a page that would otherwise be done using a single click.

Frustrations will send users to those sites that are optimized for mobile, and chances of winning them back will be very slim. Stats show that 61 percent of users are unlikely to return to a site where they got a bad experience.

Google standards dictate that sites should load in under two seconds. A responsive site can achieve that, but a desktop site loading on a mobile device has no chance.

10 Steps to Making Your Site Mobile-friendly

Here are important steps you can take to make your site work well for both mobile and desktop users, and ensure they don’t bounce off once they land on your site.

1.      Make your site responsive

A responsive site is one that includes all the same content and information on any device used to access it. However, it changes the way it is displayed and arranged based on the size of the device used. Making a site mobile responsive is the first step to ensuring you are not limiting the information your mobile users can access.

2.      Make Information easier for people to access

You need to make information that people look for easier to find. Some people who browse the web on their mobile devices want to find information as fast as possible. While creating your content, think about what people might be looking for. Put information in places that are easy to find and not hidden.

Additionally, consider the FAQs people most often look for when they visit a site. It might not make any sense to put all the answers at the front or center of your homepage. However, make such information easy to find and navigate.

3.      Avoid the use of flash

Years ago, flash a few out of favor, mostly because it is bad for SEO. It can greatly slow down the load time of a page and there are many other devices and browsers where it won’t work.

Additionally, neither Android or iOS devices support the use of flash. So if you are building a site that is heavily reliant on flash, your mobile visitors may be left out. The best way is to find an alternative technology that eliminates the use of flash.

4.      Include Meta Tags

You need to include viewpoint meta tags on your site. Doing so presents an easy way to control how your website shows up on mobile. Viewpoint meta tags tell a browser to fit the width of your page to the screen of the device type a user is on.

5.      Turn Autocorrect for forms

Words that are automatically corrected may cause a lot of inconveniences for your site users. If you have forms on your site that ask visitors for information such as their names and addresses, you need to ensure that autocorrect is turned off.

This is because if it is turned on, their phones will try changing their names and street names to more convenient names, and this may greatly slow down your site.

6.      Work on your button sizes

It may be easy enough to click any button with the help of a mouse or cursor. However, when you try to do the same using your fingers on a small smartphone screen, small buttons may be very hard to deal with.

You need to save your visitors from this form of frustration by using bigger buttons. Anytime you add a button to your site, take the time to test it for the mobile experience. Ensure that selecting each button is an easy and seamless experience.

7.      Use Large fonts

Reading on a small screen can be very hard if the font used is tiny. It is a good practice to use a font that is at least 14px on your pages. Additionally, go ahead and test how it looks to ensure your visitors get a good experience.

8.      Work on your images and CSS

When it comes to the loading speed of your site, images play a big role. For mobile users, speed is very important. Google recommends that the loading speed of your site should always be under two seconds. A good way to make your site responsive is to ensure you compress your images.

Additionally, work on the high resolution in images because they affect your CSS. You want visitors to interact with your site in a way that is simple and saves on their data.

9.      Allow switch to desktop view

You need to allow for an easy way to switch to desktop view. Some of your site visitors may prefer to see the desktop version of your site instead of the mobile version. You must ensure that you give them a way to do so according to their preferences. You will always want your visitors to interact with your site in a way that makes the most sense to them.

10.  Perform Regular Mobile Testing

The best thing you can do to ensure the mobile experience of your site is the best is to regularly carry out tests yourself. Regularly, pull up your site on your phone and tablet, and spend some time browsing to see if the experience you are getting is one you would want your visitors to experience.

You may also ask your developers, employees, and friends to browse your site with their mobile and give you an honest review of the experience they get.

Ways to Optimize Your Site for Mobile

For quite some time, Google has always been favoring and moving towards a mobile-first index. It is in an index that looks at the mobile version of your website and falls back on the desktop version once a mobile version is not found.

Optimizing a site for mobile allows customers to be reached much quicker which can be very beneficial for business. A well-optimized site increases customer satisfaction, facilitates more browsing of a site by visitors and ultimately pushing rankings of a site higher On SERPs.

If you want to optimize your site for Google’s mobile-first index, here is how to go about it.

Speed

Users visiting your site want to have a seamless experience when it comes to your site’s speed. To optimize your site for speed, consider the following; Optimize your images to the correct size, minify your code, leverage browser caching and reduce redirects.

Don’t block CSS, JavaScript or Images

In the early days of mobile design, blocking these elements seemed useful. However, today, that is not the case. Some of today’s smartphones are more powerful than many computers. They can handle nearly anything they have to load.

This means the smartphone GoogleBot can equally handle blocked items and wants to be able to categorize your content in different ways. It is always a good practice to ensure you don’t block these items.

Mobile Design

SEO has now transformed from being technical to an art. For one to get today’s SEO right, they need to know and understand more than just code and ranking signals. They need to have a good understanding of how design affect and influences rankings.

While designing your site, to make full use of optimization, you need to get a couple of aspects right including; failure to use flash, getting rid of pop-ups and designing for the finger.

Apple killed Flash for mobile. Since many people can’t view flash elements on their phones, you need to remove them. Additionally, you need to understand that lead generation is important, but if your site is constantly overloading with pop-ups, you will frustrate your users.

Lastly on mobile design, understand that your mobile users will be navigating your site with their fingers. This calls for the need to ensure the design of your site is finger-friendly. Accidental taps can be very annoying, so ensure your visitors can scroll and tap with ease.

On-page optimization

When it comes to mobile search engine results pages, you must ensure you keep your titles and descriptions straight to the point. Doing so will help Google understand your site better, and will lead to a higher click-through rate as well as improved rankings.

Optimize for Local

Local search

With Google’s Possum update, there were massive changes when regarding the local search algorithm. Mobile search is now very crucial for businesses that are looking forward to driving qualified traffic to their sites.

You should always aim for functionality. Functionality is what you offer your visitors to get things done in the right way. Ensure that your site’s visitors can get all the information they need in one place. Organize your content in a manner that makes your visitors want to stay and browse more on your site, to reduce bounce rates and increase clickability.

For website owners, the shift in how people interact with the web isn’t surprising, but it does increase the urgency to make your site mobile-friendly. If your mobile users do not have a good experience when they land on your site, they will go to a competitor site that is well optimized.

Even if you get everything right today, the way mobile devices look and work will continually change as time moves on. The noblest thing you can do is to keep testing and tweaking things as needed, to ensure you are on top of your game every day.