How Important is Mobile Optimization for Websites?
Every year, internet users increasingly choose to interact with internet content via their smartphones and tablets. Intriguingly, many business owners still haven’t prioritized mobile optimization for websites above other infrastructure upgrades.
What is mobile optimization?
The majority of websites were built for the desktop user. Either later on or simultaneously, this design is somewhat scaled back for mobile. The trouble is, anything that’s even slightly inconvenient on a desktop becomes a monster on a smartphone.
Think about it: small text on a desktop browser is microscopic on a smartphone. The long drop-down menu that was clunky on your desktop becomes a fat-thumb trap on your phone as you fumble the scroll vs select options for the fourth time. You downloaded the image you were trying to zoom in on, and by that time you’ve decided to click back to a site that’s easier to use.
This experience is precisely why a complete approach to mobile optimization is needed. While responsive designs (favored by Google and thus truly important) are an excellent start, they’re only a jumping-off point for making a website a pleasure for the mobile user to visit.
Considering the clearly long-term outlook on mobile browsing, only about 14% of websites are optimized for mobile visitors. Clearly, websites who get ahead of this rapidly-approaching trend will be poised to take advantage of the shifting trends we expect to continue to see this year.
Why does your website need to be optimized?
Let’s do a bit of interactive reading. Pick up your mobile device and visit your own website. Go through the following questions and answer as honestly as you can.
- Does your site load in under three seconds?
- Is your content easy to see and read?
- Is your eye drawn to the portions of your site that you think are the most important?
- If you try to navigate your menus or click on a phone number or email link, do you find your site easy to navigate?
- Do you see the call to action from where you started?
- Would you want to navigate back to your site anytime soon if it didn’t belong to you?
If you answer “no” to more than two of these questions, it’s certainly worth discussing an upgrade.
#2 – The mobile internet is bustling.
In 2016, mobile traffic finally overtook desktop traffic as smartphones became the primary device used to visit websites. In more than a few industries, reports indicate that up to 85% of all interactions are taking place on smartphone and other mobile devices.
Websites that cannot adapt to this segment of the population are likely to continue to see their sites slip in SERP rankings as time goes on.
#3 – People behave differently on their mobile devices.
Smartphone users are often using their mobile browsers, social media apps, news apps, and photo apps while simultaneously watching television, commuting to work, and possibly even using their laptop.
Like the hungry, fast-food-munching, coffee-drinking commuters they often are, mobile users usually want to consume information in rapid, gulping mouthfuls. Statistics show that smartphone users spend more money on their mobile purchases than they do on desktop sites, too, indicating that they may not be as careful or thorough on their smartphones as they will be on their laptops later on.
This ravenous desire to consume content and material goods may be the single most important reason to anticipate the needs of those who visit your site. Your presentation should ideally suit the context and provide the experience they’re expecting to enjoy.
Making sure your website is optimized to cater to how visitors will behave on your site will significantly clear the path to facilitate purchase or communication.
Which types of changes help optimize a website for mobile users?
- Keep your page fast and sleek.
Because of wide variations in mobile hardware and connectivity speeds, your website should shed bulky code, reduce redirects, and optimize any images.
In the past, some mobile devices could find any of these elements to be an insurmountable hurdle. Now most phones can keep up, so let Google’s Smartphone bot see and index your content.
- Never use pop-ups or Flash.
Pop-ups clutter the small screens on smartphones and are difficult to navigate accurately.Only slightly less annoying is missing out on a website’s content because your phone doesn’t support Flash. If you want a special visual display to welcome visitors to your website, consider using the more broadly-used HTML5.
- Optimize your headers, titles, and meta descriptions.
Again, smartphone users are going to be viewing your site on a small screen, so your titles need to be short and punchy, while still high-quality both thematically and grammatically.
- Optimize specifically for local users.
If your website serves a local population, you must be sure to optimize your content for searches for details like your name, address, and phone number by using the standard forms of these uniformly on your website and in your metadata.
What if a complete website overhaul isn’t an option for me right now? How can I reach mobile users in the meantime?
If you’re in this predicament, you might benefit from creating a daughter website by adding an “m” sub-domain into the URL, thereby redirecting mobile users to a site that you’ve custom created just for them.
This system isn’t perfect, but as long as your redirects are solid and sufficiently pared down, it should work well while you make long-term plans for your main website to go mobile.