8 Optimisation Tips for the Mobile Web
Now that the majority of web traffic comes from mobile devices, we need to ensure our websites are optimised for mobile users. If we need even more reason to optimise for mobile users, Google has stated that it is moving towards mobile-first indexing, meaning that it will soon use the mobile experience to determine its search engine results rankings.
Currently, there are 3 main ways in which we can serve mobile users. These are:
- Responsive websites – Responsive websites serve the same content to all users (desktop, tablet or mobiles) and simply adjust the way it displays based on the size of the user’s screen. This is the preferred method by Google because it presents the same content to all users. The advantages of responsive websites are that it uses a single URL, there is no duplication of content across different sites, there are no redirects (between desktop and mobile content) and you are able to consolidate authority to a single domain which makes it easier to perform SEO.
- Dynamic serving websites – These sites serve different sets of code and content based on the type of device the visitor is using. This approach is useful if you currently have a desktop only website and don’t have the budget for a complete redesign and redevelopment into a responsive site. It allows you to create a more mobile-friendly version. Dynamic serving sites have similar advantages to responsive sites in that it uses a single URL, it consolidates authority and allows you to use mobile-specific content, which in some cases may be better than the responsive approach. The big disadvantage is that it relies on an updated list of devices, which can change quite frequently. Furthermore, a common mistake is to serve the wrong code to the wrong device and dynamic serving sites don’t allow users to switch to the correct version if they end up in the wrong place. You can imagine what your user will do when that happens.
- Mobile specific sites – This is where you create a second site just for mobile users. This allows you to completely customise your content for mobile visitors which can result in a better user experience. The site is served on a separate URL i.e. m.domain.com to avoid confusion but if the user ends up at the wrong version, the user can often click to change to the correct version. The big downside of having a parallel mobile site is that it is expensive to maintain (two sites), it splits authority for your company into two domains, there is content duplication risk (you need to set-up correct rel=canonical tags) and there are lots of redirects which can cause for page speed issues.
We’ve been choosing the responsive website approach for years and believe it is the best approach overall. However, there are instances where the other approaches may be more appropriate. Make sure you weigh up the costs and benefits of each before taking the plunge. If you need help deciding, make sure to reach out and get in touch with us.
Say you already have a responsive site. What can you do to make sure that you give yourself the best chance of being highly ranked and converting traffic into customers? We outline 8 tips for optimising your mobile experience.
- Page speed – hardware and connectivity are not as good for mobile devices. Make sure your images are optimised (this is usually the #1 thing you can do to reduce page size). You’ll also want to minify code, leverage browser caching and minimise redirects.
- Pop-ups – pop-ups on mobile devices are not only annoying to users, they can sometimes be impossible to close. If the mobile user can’t close the pop-up, they will likely close your site.
- Design for fat fingers – mobile users use their fingers to scroll and navigate on a small touch screen. This imprecision requires mobile interfaces to have good size buttons to make it easy for users to click and be located out of the natural path of a finger that is trying to get a page to scroll.
- Don’t use flash – we can’t believe we’re saying this still but we still see it so it’s worth restating. Avoid flash because the plugin player may not be available on your user’s phone or desktop which means they won’t see whatever you’ve created. Use HTML5 instead to create your special effects.
- Scrolling – mobile users are happy to scroll endlessly instead of having to click and wait for new pages to render. “Above the fold” doesn’t apply to mobile users and it is increasingly the case for desktop users as well. Don’t design pages where you limit page height based on “the fold”.
- Optimise meta information – good concise page titles and meta descriptions are even more important on mobile devices because of the limited screen space used to display search results. Make sure you make your most important points early in these tags to ensure they get displayed and attract clicks.
- Use Schema.org structured data – this is where you “label” your data so that search engines can understand the structure and display the appropriate (rich) snippets within a search result. Given the limited screen space on mobile devices, these rich snippets will make it even more likely for your listing to stand out and get clicked.
Most of the above apply to both desktop and mobiles but these factors are more important on mobile devices due to screen size and slower download speed. If you’re worried about being left behind and missing the mobile wave, don’t hesitate to contact us to find out how you ride the swell. Give us a call at (02) 8211 0668 or email us at [email protected].
Co-founder of Cornerstone and web junkie, Michael knows just how to diagnose your online problems and remedy the issue. An online enthusiast who believes in technology as an enabler of growth, Michael worries about all the details so you don't have to.