On April 21st, 2015, Google released a major update to their search algorithm, known as “Mobilegeddon.” The launch of this most current algorithm aimed to favor sites that are mobile-friendly, while essentially punishing sites that have neglected to cater to smartphone users.
Websites that have yet to go mobile could find themselves ranked lower in mobile search engines, if at all. Today, approximately 90 percent of American adults own a cell phone, according to the Pew Research Center, and up to 63 percent of cell phone owners use their phones to access the Internet.
Even if you haven’t been impacted by Mobilegeddon, it’s crucial to develop a mobile version of your website if you wish to do business with today’s mobile consumers, which are growing in numbers every day. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to attract more traffic to your site.
Mobile-friendly sites can differ in design and usability, but the objectives are the same – to design a website that is easy to read, use and navigate on a small screen. The main options for developing mobile websites include separate mobile sites, responsive designs, adaptive designs, and hybrid responsive adaptive designs.
Separate Mobile Site
Some website owners prefer to have a separate mobile website with a separate set of files. A separate mobile site is more easily optimized for the mobile experience, but it leaves you with two different websites to manage. For example, you can make the mobile site lighter with smaller images, CSS files, etc., for speedier load times.
However, there are some downfalls to having a separate mobile site. Web developers are responsible for redirecting users between the two sites, which can be challenging and affect load speeds and potentially increase maintenance costs. And, your content management effort is doubled, because changes made on one site are not automatically applied to the other site.
Lastly, Google frowns on separate mobile sites, as these unique sites often have less content than the original, or even different content.
Responsive web design allows web developers to develop and maintain a single website that utilizes the same code base. Responsive design reorganizes a site’s content in the browser to accommodate the device being used. As there is only one website used for all devices, maintenance and administrative tasks are drastically decreased. Site users also do not have to deal with redirects. SEO is maintained, and there is no need to create new content for the mobile website.
While Google prefers a responsive design, this mobile website method still makes it difficult to achieve a truly mobile optimized experience. Responsive design takes your content and rearranges it in your web browser, based on the device you’re using.
As devices evolve, your responsive site may fall short. Typically, a responsive design will account for mobile and tablet views, for example, but what happens if people start browsing on their watches?
Lastly, if you have features on your desktop site that aren’t mobile friendly, those features will still appear on the mobile version of your site. For example, you might have a map that plots multiple locations on your desktop site. This feature will be frustrating for a mobile user, no matter how it’s presented — the mobile screen is simply too small for this.
Although responsive mobile design seems to be more popular amongst businesses as of now, web developers shouldn’t overlook the benefits of adaptive web design. With adaptive design, the “rearranging” of the web content occurs on the server side instead of the browser.
While the web developer still has one set of content to manage, he/she has the ability to hide features and better optimize mobile user experience. Adaptive web design is Google-friendly, highly interactive, and works well with most devices.
While adaptive web design is a great approach for some web developers, there are a few issues to consider. First, adaptive websites tend to be a bit slower than responsive sites, which can turn away potential web users who desire speed with their mobile Internet. Site speed is an SEO ranking factor. Adaptive mobile design is also somewhat budget and resource heavy, requiring a bigger team of developers and a larger budget to create and maintain.
Hybrid Responsive Adaptive
Web developers who desire elements of both responsive and adaptive mobile designs may opt for a hybrid responsive adaptive web design. This method of mobile design offers more flexibility and optimization for page load speed.
With a hybrid responsive adaptive site, the site’s original structure and content remains consistent across various platforms, allowing users who are already familiar with your site to easily navigate it on their smartphones.
While a hybrid responsive adaptive mobile design offers a plethora of benefits, it is also the most expensive. This method is a custom solution that requires a large budget and skilled web developers for site development. Web developers must have a thorough understanding of both desktop and mobile platforms to create a design that blends well together.
If you have yet to bring your website on the mobile bandwagon, let the release of Mobilegeddon be your motivation to do so. More and more people now rely on their smartphones as their primary internet access point, making mobile-friendly sites a must. Have you employed one of these approaches to develop a mobile-friendly site design?