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June 20, 2016

Mobile-friendly. What does it mean?

By Ross Gerring

Mobile-friendly means that a site retains good design principles and functionality (i.e. usability), irrespective of the device being used to view and interact with it. “Device” typically means desktop PC, tablet, or smartphone.

City of Fremantle website is mobile-friendly

Itomic’s site for the City of Fremantle is mobile-friendly

In industry lingo, a mobile-friendly site is known as a responsive site.

Not that many years ago, before smartphones and tables were widespread, responsive sites were a nice-to-have. Today, mobile-friendly sites are standard, unless there’s a special reason why the target audience(s) will only ever interact with a site on, say, a desktop PC. (side-note: more effort is required to build mobile-friendly sites than desktop-friendly-only sites, but that’s another article).

Why go mobile-friendly?

  1. Because the world is (still) going mobile. Despite recent evidence that smartphone ownership has reached peak levels in key markets worldwide, people are still trending towards using and preferring their mobile devices, over their less-mobile desktops, to consume digital content.
  2. Because Google searches are increasingly preferring sites that are responsive over sites that are not. And in the never-ending battle to get your site found ahead of your competition, every little bit helps.

How does Google decide if a web page is responsive or not?

From Google’s own blog post on the subject, a mobile-friendly site exhibits the following characteristics:

  • Avoids software that is not common on mobile devices, like Flash.
  • Uses text that is readable without zooming.
  • Sizes content to the screen so users don’t have to scroll horizontally or zoom.
  • Places links far enough apart so that the correct one can be easily tapped.

If working out the above for yourself sounds too hard – never fear! Google offers up more information about, and tests for, responsive sites in the same blog post: https://webmasters.googleblog.com/2014/11/helping-users-find-mobile-friendly-pages.html.

How to make your site mobile-friendly?

If it’s determined that your site is not responsive, or “could do better”, then what next? In the first instance. have a conversation about it with your preferred web developer/consultant. Depending on how old your site is, and/or what technologies it’s built with, it may be more economical to rebuild your site from scratch than it is to improve it, or retro-fit it, to be responsive. By all means get a second or 3rd opinion if you’re not convinced by the first one or two.