The Consequences of a Website that’s not Mobile-Friendly
| October 14th 2023
If you’ve ever had the displeasure of navigating a non-mobile friendly website, you’ll be all too familiar with those feelings of utter frustration as you try to wade through tiny texts and awkward menus.
So why inflict that on your own customers? The fact is that over 90% of internet users access the web via a mobile phone (compared to just 65% who use a laptop or desktop PC).
Smartphones are no longer the stuff of the elite. A Statista report indicates that, as of 2022, there were 6.64 billion smartphone users across the world, and this is set to rise to 7.5 billion by 2026. In the second quarter of 2022, mobile platforms accounted for 59% of overall web traffic, which is over 50% of global web traffic.
These days it is second nature for anyone to use their phone to find whatever they need, from football results and weather reports, to nearby shops and local services, and of course, somewhere to make their next purchase.
All of this makes it quite clear why it’s imperative that you avoid any scenario where your website is not mobile friendly.
Why Google doesn’t approve of non-mobile friendly websites
Back in September 2020, Google made a full shift to mobile-first indexing. This means that the search engine predominantly uses the mobile version of a website, crawled using its smartphone agent, for indexing and ranking a website.
So even if you’ve got an all-singing, all-dancing website that looks mind-blowing on a laptop or desktop PC and has been designed around a best in class user experience, if that same website doesn’t match up when viewed on a mobile device, you could find your search engine results page positions suffer as a result.
80% of the top ranked websites are optimised for mobile users. This goes to show that Google does give preference to mobile friendly sites.
Whilst Google doesn’t make it obligatory for every site to have a mobile version to have its content included in its search results, it does strongly recommend it.
Mobile-first indexing is enabled by default for all websites that are new to the web or previously unknown to Google Search.
For older or existing websites, Google continues to monitor and evaluate their pages based on their best practices. One of these is to create a mobile friendly website using ‘responsive design’.
What is responsive web design?
Responsive web design is a way of creating a website so that it automatically scales its content and changes its appearance to suit the device it is being viewed on. So whether you’re viewing a site on a huge great widescreen desktop monitor, a personal laptop, a tablet or a smartphone, you’ll see the same content, albeit a different size or layout.
Responsive design saves users of smaller devices the frustration of scrolling, zooming and resizing, allowing them to see what they want to see instantly.
Sites that do not respond to the screen size can be very difficult to navigate. They are prone to user frustration, and will often cost you potential customers, as well as risking damage to your brand reputation.
Before responsive design, you would traditionally have either a non-mobile friendly website, or a separate mobile version of the desktop site.
But thanks to responsive design, there is no longer a need to create a separate, dedicated mobile website (and pay more to host it). All you need is a single site that scales to fit the device it is being viewed on.
Why is responsive web design so important?
The way we browse the internet has changed considerably over the past few years. Whilst desktop browsing does still exist, people tend to switch from PC or laptop to tablet to phone and back again at the drop of a hat. This is why it’s so important for the website user experience to be consistent across multiple devices.
Responsive websites tend to prove more cost effective, because there is no need to maintain and host separate sites. They also offer greater flexibility, and they are easier to manage compared to a setup where there’s a separate desktop and mobile site.
What’s more, and very importantly in terms of online visibility, Google has a preference for responsive websites. Here’s what they say:
“We recommend using responsive web design because it makes it easier for users to share and link to your content with a single URL.”
The search engine also says that responsive design makes site crawling and indexing a lot more efficient and straightforward. And, because users are not re-directed to a separate site that suits their device, it reduces load time, which makes for a better user experience.
When Google crawls a website that’s been responsively designed, it only needs to do so once, rather than several times to retrieve all versions of the content. This improved crawling efficiency helps Google index more of a site’s content, which means you have a better chance of seeing your most up to date content indexed quickly.
What else can be done to avoid a non-mobile friendly website?
There are several other tactics you can employ to avoid a website that’s not mobile friendly.
Optimise website speed
Speed is a hugely important factor when it comes to creating that all-important first impression for website users.
47% of web visitors vacate a website if it is sat loading for more than two seconds. Even a one-second delay in page response could negatively impact conversion rates.
As far as Google is concerned, fast loading speed is a positive ranking factor. Which is why, when making sure you avoid a non-mobile friendly website, it’s so important that you take all steps possible to boost your website speed.
Issues that can slow a website down include large media files, such as images and videos. Certain website plugins and extensions. Technical bugs, and low cost website hosting.
Be careful with pop-ups
Whilst pop-ups have their place in online marketing, it isn’t nice for web users to come up against surprise messages on their browsing journey. Especially when they’re using a mobile device, because it is usually a lot trickier to close them.
If you are going to use pop-ups, for example to encourage sales through providing a discount on the first order, or to help with your list building strategy, then there are some best practice rules to stick to. These will help you avoid a not mobile friendly website that causes user frustration and reduces conversion rates:
- Implement the pop-up only once the reader has scrolled down around 75% of the page, so they get to see the important stuff first
- Make sure your pop-up is mobile friendly and fits with your mobile-optimised design
- Ensure the calls to action on your pop-up are clear, and that users find it easy to take the necessary action, including closing the pop-up if they’re not interested
As well as slowing down page loading speed, complex graphics and images can clutter a mobile site and detract from the important messaging you are trying to convey.
You can use the ‘lazy load’ function to show images only when needed, so they don’t litter the page or slow things down.
Add the viewport meta tag
The viewport meta tag helps internet browsers define the visible area for users, so the site is scaled properly on all devices, regardless of screen size.
Provide a clean user journey
A website that’s cluttered with all sorts of features and functions will never be user friendly. Typically, a non-mobile friendly website will be overwhelming in this respect, creating confusion for users.
Be sure to offer just the vital elements that your users will be actively seeking. You’re aiming for a tidy, minimalist design for mobile, with an intuitive navigation that’s frustration-free. Website users are well-used to looking for the ‘hamburger’ button these days, which they can use to navigate to wherever they need to be in a single tap should they wish.
Consider both landscape and portrait orientations
Always bear in mind that your website may be viewed in either landscape or portrait orientation on a mobile device. In fact, there are desktop monitors and laptops now that offer a choice in orientation, so it’s important to make sure your site loads and works perfectly on both.
Be mindful when writing content
When you’re writing your website content, it’s important to consider how it will look on a mobile device as well as desktop.
Needless to say, bulky paragraphs aren’t going to do much for your user-friendly approach. Whilst they may work on a desktop screen, the scrolling involved on a mobile is going to prove infuriating.
So stick to short sentences and paragraphs, and try and be as succinct as possible within the first 75% of the scrolling area so that you communicate the vital facts users need to feel reassured they’re in the right place.
Avoid varying your mobile and desktop content
Google’s mobile-first indexing could potentially cause a site to lose traffic if on mobile there is less information than on desktop.
Google says that using identical text, headings, captions, meta data and alt text for both mobile and desktop is correct practice. But what if your desktop site contains lots of content which just wouldn’t suit the mobile view?
Instead of removing it, use features such as drop-down menus, accordions and tabs to present the information in a neat and tidy and easily accessible fashion.
Test mobile friendliness on REAL mobile devices
Testing mobile friendliness is vital.
You’ll find that a lot of content management systems will allow you to preview a generalised mobile view before you put your content live. Or you can use one of the free mobile usability testing tools, such as Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test.
However, the only truly effective way to ensure your site provides the best possible user experience on mobile – and to avoid a non-mobile friendly website, is to test it on real mobile devices.
There are of course countless device models across the iOS and Android operating platforms, with new releases coming out all the time. This can make it a challenge to manually test every scenario on every device. Few businesses will have the funds available to invest in a mobile testing lab.
There is, however, an alternative which is more accessible cost-wise. This is known as a ‘real device cloud’. These platforms effectively test a whole host of devices, including mobile and desktop, and they stay updated with all the latest model releases.
What happens if a website is not mobile friendly?
The consequences of a non-mobile friendly website are many, and they can be very damaging for a business.
The frustrated user who can’t find what they are looking for when browsing your website on a mobile device could well:
- Leave your site and head to a competitor’s instead
- Lose faith in your brand
- Be very unlikely to recommend your site to others
- Be even more unlikely to share your content
So that’s lost business, damaged reputation, weakened brand loyalty and missed opportunities.
Even more important is that mobile friendliness is a Google ranking factor for mobile searches, and it has been since 2015. What’s more, in 2019, when mobile-first indexing was first introduced, it also became a ranking factor for desktop searches.
This means that even if you have a faultless desktop website, if it’s not optimised for mobile, your search engine rankings could suffer. And your managed SEO campaign may not perform as well as a result.
Why mobile friendly websites are even more important for local businesses
If you run a local business, it’s important to bear in mind that most people searching for local services will be doing so using a mobile device.
The crucial thing here is that a huge number of local searches are made with high purchase intent. In other words, most local services searches result in a sale. This is why local SEO has never been more important, and mobile search forms a crucial part of this strategy.
So, if you rely on online orders from a local audience, or you rely on the internet to drive footfall to your physical store, bear in mind that if you have a non-mobile friendly website, you will find it difficult to compete.
Now is a good time to look back to our post on making your mobile search results more clickable. More click-throughs equal an improved chance of boosting sales, so it’s worth taking steps to boost your click through rate.
Looking to avoid a non-mobile friendly website that could impact your SEO success?
If you’re embarking on an SEO campaign, you’ll need a solid platform to secure its success. And that means making sure you avoid a website that’s not mobile friendly.
As part of our managed SEO campaign service, we start by analysing a client’s existing website to make sure it has everything in place to support the campaign. And that includes, amongst many other things, being mobile friendly.
If you are eager to work with an award-winning digital marketing agency in London, one that can prove its success across a variety of industry sectors and business types, you are invited to talk to Figment.