If you haven’t already heard, Google announced an upcoming update to their search algorithm that will use “mobile-friendliness” as a significant factor for determining rankings on all mobile searches.
If your site doesn’t display well on mobile devices by April 21, you can kiss your Google mobile search traffic goodbye. This is a huge deal. Here’s why:
- Mobile is an increasingly larger percentage of web traffic.
- Smartphones and tablets now account for 60% of all online traffic.
- 80% of all Internet users own a smartphone.
The good news is you still have time to make sure your mobile experience is ready. What Google recommends can essentially be broken down into two areas:
- Optimize your site design for mobile interaction
- Make sure your mobile site is fast
These two areas are so interconnected that you MUST build performance into your design from the very beginning, or your hard, costly work will be for naught.
Designing for Mobile Performance
At the heart of Google’s new mobile mandate is the customer experience. People now have extremely high expectations for mobile experiences, and their tolerance for bad interaction and poor performance is much lower than on desktop. The reality is that your potential customers are unlikely to return to your mobile site if the experience isn’t great. Additionally, surveys have shown that these same customers are far more likely to immediately go to one of your competitors after having a bad experience with your site.
So what does Google expect from your mobile site design? They have a great online guide for making mobile-friendly site designs.
But, there is a lot more to consider when selecting the optimal architecture and design for your mobile site, especially when it comes to performance.
Responsive is Not a Strategy
When marketing design teams and agencies start talking about website design, the ‘R word’ is never far behind. Responsive website design, or RWD, is slowly becoming the de facto standard as it offers many benefits around the flexibility and simplicity of keeping a single coherent design style for all site visitors, regardless of device type.
But RWD has other aspects to consider, especially when it comes to mobile site performance. With the most popular implementation of RWD you are essentially scaling down the same elements on your desktop design to fit onto a mobile screen. Often, this means that you are taking large images that look great on a wide desktop screen and shrinking them down to fit on mobile. Unless you specifically keep performance in mind, an RWD site can be very slow – leading to bounces and drops in all your standard website and conversion metrics.
Here at Dynatrace, when deciding on how we would render our mobile experience, we started with data. With the help of the folks at our fantastic agency, Extractable, we analyzed our web traffic and found the major screen size breakpoints of our visitors.
The data told us that the majority of our site traffic was driven by two screen size groupings: desktop up to 1024px wide and mobile up to 400px wide. The analysis led us to deliver our website using an adaptive design with a desktop site and a design purpose built for mobile devices – with both architected for performance.
Ensure Mobile Site Performance
What can you do to ensure the design you build performs?
- Measure So You Can Manage
Monitor your mobile site with synthetic mobile agents to see the impact of design changes, and track ongoing performance and uptime.
- Test Quality on Real Mobile Devices
Emulators are great for running quick spot checks on your site, but nothing can take the place of testing your site on real smartphones on real carrier networks. You could keep a drawer of the most popular smartphones to do this manually, or you could take advantage of a mobile testing solution and instantly access hundreds of the latest smartphones and tablets to test your site in real-time.
In the end, there will be trade-offs that need to be made between cost, time-to-market, performance, quality, and delivering the business objectives of the site – that’s just the way the digital world works. But, if you keep in mind the end customer experience, you’ll be on the right path.