Increasingly the web has been full of mobile-friendly and responsive phrases regarding the on-screen rendering of websites, but what does this actually mean and why should I care?
Well, in a nutshell a website should be as easy to use on a small mobile device as it is on a large, wide-screen monitor. Obviously, there’s an issue here due to scale and differing means of interacting with a website dependant upon the size of device on which it is being used (mouse or finger, landscape or portrait orientation, for example). So, the issue is not how do you get your current website to appear exactly as it does on a desktop pc or a Samsung Galaxy (other mobile phones are available :-)) but how the website can be made to respond, in terms of layout, to the type/size of device upon which it is being used.
For example, if you have a full-width navigation bar with 15 links/tabs on it, simply shrinking this to a mobile phone screen renders it largely unusable as each link would be very hard to read and the links virtually too small to trigger with a fingertip and so the navigation bar would need an alternative layout for mobile devices in this instance.
Look at your business website on your pc and then look at it on your mobile phone: if it looks exactly the same then it probably isn't mobile-friendly!
Additionally, a big issue is that desktop pc and laptop monitors are landscape oriented – ie; wider than they are tall – whereas the default perspective on mobile devices tends to be portrait – ie; higher than they are wide – which obviously causes a problem: if your website is, for example, 4 content columns in width then this can’t be crammed into a readable/usable screen width on a mobile phone.
The key here again is to have the website coded in such a manner – through means with which we won’t bore you – so that it automatically recognises on what screen size it is being used and morphs its layout according … so that, in our example, the four columns could stack one on top of the other so that on a phone you are reading a 1 column website: all the content is still there but the website has ‘responded’ to its environment to make the user experience easier. Should you care?
Well, there are still a hell of a lot of websites out there that aren’t mobile-friendly/responsive but as of early 2015 Google announced it was beginning a process of applying ranking sanctions to websites that didn’t conform to its definition of being ‘mobile-friendly’. This meant that you may have a website that appeared on the first page of Google search results for your chosen product/service but as your website isn’t mobile-friendly you may suddenly find it ranking on a lower page.
Initially Google said this would be rolled-out on their Mobile Search results but it could be a matter of time until it affects all search results and, to be honest, more and more people search for websites on mobile devices nowadays so you don’t want to be left behind.
Even if you’re not swayed by the Google issue to address a non-responsive website, the question you should ask yourself is: can my existing and/or potential customers have an enjoyable experience using my business website on whatever device they choose? If the answer is ‘no’ then we’d recommend looking into it asap!