The world is gearing towards mobility at full speed. Recent data show that mobile devices have surpassed desktop computers as the preferred medium to access the Internet. In 2016, StatCounter reported that 51.3 percent of people accessed the Internet using smartphones and other similar gadgets compared to 48.7 percent who used traditional computing platforms. Mobile device usage is also instrumental to the skyrocketing Internet usage in emerging economies in Latin America, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. This puts a challenge on businesses and web publishers in creating mobile-optimized websites.
Peter Rojas, co-founder of Engadget and Gizmodo, cannot be more accurate when he said: “I think the biggest change, and the one we’re already starting to see take shape, is that globally the majority of Internet usage will be done via a mobile device and for most people the mobile web will be their primary — if not their only — way of experiencing the Internet.”
Mobile optimization against bounce rates
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Why the need to mobile optimize? A typical Internet user will only wait for 3 seconds before dropping a web page. Generally, this may be interpreted as a lost business opportunity especially if the affected page is the gateway to other sections of the site. Moreover, a Google survey revealed that 46 percent of respondents said their top frustration in mobile browsing is waiting for slow pages to load. There are several factors that affect bounce rate including pop-up ads, streaming video, and landing page design. A website not optimized for mobile users also records high bounce rates.
Facebook launched Instant Articles while Google released Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) in response to the growing demand for faster loading of webpages. The main purpose of both projects is to deliver content faster to mobile users. If two of the most powerful tech companies are pursuing mobile-friendliness, then what reason do developers have for not optimizing?
Improving SEO via mobile-friendliness
Another compelling reason for mobile optimization is SEO. SEO is becoming more challenging as more web pages are created every day. Google is adding and dropping page ranking signals based on changes in users’ needs and preference. Recognizing the power of mobile usage, Google has expanded mobile-friendliness in ranking webpages to affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide. This is a huge effort to improve user experience.
Mobile optimization is an SEO technique. To help developers, Google has a free tool that provides information on whether a website is mobile-friendly or not. It details the resources that could not be loaded, if any, guiding the developer in optimizing the pages and content. The developers are advised to use this tool before drafting a website optimization strategy. The Search Console offers technical guidelines for mobile SEO including the non-usage of Flash for video content, viewport configuration, and using relative instead of fixed widths for content. Search Console also features a mobile usability report that analyzes issues on a page-by-page level.
How to create a mobile-friendly site?
Google provides three basic ways of configuring a website for multiple devices: responsive web design (RWD), dynamic serving, and separate URLs. RWD “serves the same HTML code on the same URL regardless of the users’ device, but can render the display differently based on the screen size.” It makes it easier for users to share content, reduce the possibility of the common mistakes, and boosts page ranking.
Redefining user experience
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User experience, by its general definition, comprises all factors that affect a user’s interaction with a company, its products and services. The Nielsen Norman Group states that “true user experience goes far beyond giving customers what they say they want” and must include a “seamless merging of services of multiple disciplines.”
User experience design, or UX design, (UX) is an important element in creating a mobile-friendly website. It involves techniques that develop an intuitive web design and accessibility in all platforms. It takes into account the following questions: Who are the users? What are their preferences? When and how do they interact with a company? Most importantly, how can a company convert such interaction into a profitable and sustainable relationship? UX design is the design underneath the visual.
SEO and UX design
Search engines rely on keywords, meta tags, and interactions when ranking webpages. Neither Google nor Bing can read articles and watch videos to decide whether a content is quality, insightful, and credible. At the end of the day, it’s the user who decides if a website is worth revisiting. SEO can entice traffic, but it’s the UX design that will sustain such traffic and convert it to business. A developer who knows how to combine effective SEO tactics with a powerful UX design has everything he needs.
A visionary developer knows which among the “best practices” in UX design is helpful for his website. A technique that works for an international clothing brand may not work with a local startup retailer. Nevertheless, the basics in SEO and UX design should be covered.
Mobile-friendliness, SEO, and UX design
The pillars of an SEO/UX design comprise of the company, its product and services, the target audience, and the platform. A developer should have a solid grasp of the company and its offerings. This knowledge is key in mapping out a web design and creating content. The website of a retail bank should highlight the essential features of its deposit products, including law-mandated disclaimers, without bombarding users with too much information. A developer should know who compose the target audience. If the client base of a retail bank is composed of elders, it’ll be helpful to have larger fonts and familiar icons.
For an optimal mobile user experience, simplicity is key. A website interface should be intuitive, allowing users to navigate easily without needing to decipher elements. It’s important to make use of universal icons such as the three-lined hamburger menu and the three-dotted share icon. A website should be able to load fast to accommodate mobile users who may not have high-speed Internet connection. Lengthy and high-definition videos, auto-play, overlays, and multiple windows slow downloading speed.
Despite the evident popularity of mobile web browsing, there are still a lot of websites yet to be mobile optimized. There are more that are only partially optimized. Configuring web pages and content for mobile users should not be an option. It must be the way of developing websites in reaching out to its target audience. However, a website must not only be accessible via mobile devices, it must also employ tested SEO tactics and implement a compelling UX design. A company that wants to understand SEO, UX design, and other techniques in developing an engaging and mobile-friendly website can start by consulting a digital marketing agency or a competent developer.