If you're like me, your phone is one of the first things you'll reach for in the morning. It’s also the last thing I glance at before going to sleep.
There’s little point in denying that our smartphones have taken over a large chunk of everyday life. They are used to set timers, check the weather, write to-do lists, take photographs, make bank transfers, map out journeys, watch movies, buy clothes, play games, read the news, listen to music and meet potential partners. Sometimes, they are even used to call people (shock, horror). In an era where the population is at risk from “text neck”, we are relying on our handheld devices more than ever before.
In 2015 Google announced the volume of mobile searches surpassed desktop for the first time. Every second, millions of people ask Google for help and the majority of these search enquiries are now coming in by mobile. Each month in the UK alone, we are spending on average an eye-watering 66 hours searching for stuff on our phones.
This shift in behaviour forced Google to re-evaluate its ranking system that typically looked at the desktop version of a webpage’s content, rather than its mobile counterpart which may differ. In 2016, they announced the launch of their mobile-first indexing in order to make their search results more relevant for their users.
So now that the digital world has officially gone mobile, what does this mean for marketing? It was only in 2015 that 68% of retailers did not have a mobile investment strategy. In the current digital landscape, this is no longer an option. For example, if a mobile-user lands on your website that isn’t mobile optimised, they are going to have a bad user experience right from the outset. Even if they’ve managed to navigate to your contact page, they might struggle to submit a form or simply read your contact details to get in touch.
Users will leave your website within seconds if you don't provide a great mobile UX. Lost business and bad for your brand plus #badforSEO [ Tweet This ]
To help you get you “mobile-ready”, we have a few tips that you can follow and share.
1) Ensure you have a mobile-friendly website
This may sound like an obvious one but it often gets overlooked and becoming mobile-friendly isn’t always as easy as it sounds. In fact, the Marks and Spencer website notoriously failed Google’s online test. If you are planning a new website, make sure you are working with your creative agency on a mobile responsive design from the outset. To check if your existing website is user-friendly on a smartphone, enter your URL here: https://website.grader.com/. Or you can, like M&S before you, use the Google test: https://search.google.com/test/mobile-friendly
If your website fails the test, the reasons can often be simple and relatively quick to fix, such as:
- The text is too small: Your text has to be readable without zooming in so if it isn’t, configure a viewport to make sure your fonts are scaled as they should be across different devices.
- The links are too close together: You have to place links far enough apart so that the user can tap them with ease. Avoid cramming too many touch elements into one segment. Google recommends a minimum tap target size of approximately 7mm, or 48 CSS pixels, on a site with a properly-set mobile viewport.
- The mobile viewport is not set: Don’t forget the viewport meta tag to significantly improve the presentation of your web content on mobile by setting the width and initial scale of the viewport.
For a longer-term mobile strategy, there are various options you can take:
- A fully responsive website design: The same website is served on all devices, but the page adapts its layout to each device. This is the most popular and sophisticated option but if your website was designed before the iPhone era, it may not render well on mobile so it is recommended to start from scratch. It could be time for a website overhaul in any case!
- Dynamic serving: The user's device is detected and they are presented with a custom page created specifically for that device.
- A separate site for mobile users: Mobile users are redirected to another, mobile-specific URL. Tablet users are shown the desktop site.
- A mobile app: A separate application is created for mobile users. This option is often used in combination with any of the above.
2) Check your site speed
The speed of your website has always been important to optimise the user experience and improve your search engine ranking. Heavy sites will load even slower on mobile, especially when reliant on 3G networks, and this will put people off. According to research, a ONE second delay in page loading time could result in:
- 7% loss in conversions
- 11% fewer page views
- 16% decrease in customer satisfaction
Hubspot’s website grader is a useful tool that will also give you an indication of your site’s speed as well as provide some good suggestions as to how to make improvements.
Five common speed problems, and how to fix them, are listed below:
- Bad web hosting: Your choice of hosting can affect your site’s ranking, the overall health of your site and how people view you online. Research your options well, choose one that is best for your business goals and make sure they have a good customer service team! You can also use a CDN (Content Delivery Network) to improve your site’s speed. This delivers web content based on a user’s location. The shorter the distance it takes for data to travel from the main server to the user, the faster your website will load.
- Too many redirects: Every time you direct a user to a different web page, you are prompting an HTTP request-response cycle. Keep your redirects relevant and to an absolute minimum. Speed is also often affected by too many tracking codes and share buttons on a site. Again, limit the numbers and always place them at the bottom of your webpage to optimise the site’s speed.
- Not using browser caching: Headers and navigation links are examples of page elements that don’t change and can be saved on a browser’s cache for faster retrieval. Expires headers is a popular way to do this, so that the data is there as soon as the user goes back to your site.
- Not optimising images and other media: Resize and compress images, without losing their quality, so that they’re not heavy files and a bigger burden on your mobile site.
- Broken links: 404 or 401 errors slow down loading times because browsers still require an HTTP request-response, which is then wasted on a page that doesn’t exist. Pages that load perfectly fine on desktop can return a 404 on mobile so make sure you test your site across all devices. CMS platforms like WordPress have their Broken Link Checker but it is always worth taking the time to do a full click test.
3) Adjust your content for mobile
Again, this might seem an obvious recommendation but optimising content for mobile can get overlooked during its creation on a desktop. Remember that practically all content you develop will probably be viewed on a smartphone so it’s wise to get into the habit of creating it ready for mobile from the get-go.
Some helpful suggestions for mobile-ready content are:
- Make sure any videos that appear on your site are fully compatible with smart devices.
- Where possible, make your content scrollable, rather than asking people to click through lots of different pages, as this can be challenging on mobile especially for people with fat thumbs!
- Create content that flows in the viewpoint so that users don't have to scroll horizontally to see its entirety.
- As we mentioned before, without losing their quality, crop and compress your images.
- Increase the size of your buttons on the screen so that they’re easy to click on mobile.
- Use a responsive template for absolutely everything, even your emails.
- Stick to short paragraphs and less text. People are usually on the move when they’re on their mobiles so they might not be able to read lots of text.
- Create content with an “on-the-go” user in mind and think about their intentions. They may well be looking for directions to your business, for example, so make that content particularly easy to find.
4) Improve user engagement on your site
Although webpages might be shorter for mobile, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your users will leave quicker. Use this opportunity to think about how they should travel through your site and what their experience will be like at every stop. You want your visitors to engage with the various links and resources available on the page. This is an important signal for search engines so offer them lots of goodies: free info, recipes, how-to guides and so on. While you are ultimately making the changes to your website to improve your users’ experience on mobile, it is worth bearing in mind that every additional second they spend on your site will improve your search engine rankings so keep the user journey entertaining and informative.
We could write an entire essay on how to improve the online user experience and so that’s exactly what we’re going to do. Watch this space for our blog later in the year that will offer advice on what can be done to make a website memorable for all the right reasons.