Unless you live under a rock, it’s pretty much impossible to have missed the fact that everyone today has a mobile phone and is using it to access the internet.
Amazingly, I still run into clients who tell me “yeah but our users aren’t on mobile devices when they look for us” in an effort to explain why they don’t need a mobile friendly or “responsive” website.
So for those of you who still need convincing, how about this – Google will now warn users in their search results that your website sucks on a mobile device. How’s that for motivation?
What Is a Responsive Website?
First a little jargon…
People used to be hesitant to build a mobile site if it meant building a separate site with separate maintenance, etc. This was somewhat understandable, depending on what type of business you had.
However, today almost everyone has moved to what’s called “responsive design”, which means that the website will morph its display on any size screen the way the designer intended.
No separate websites or mobile directories, no separate maintenance.
Mobile Devices Are Not Going Away
You can probably already guess the problem with continuing to build sites the old way. Today’s Internet is enjoyed by users on their mobile devices almost as much as through traditional computers. In fact, when it comes to Google, mobile users are expected to become the dominant form by the end of 2014.
That means websites that aren’t responsive aren’t going to get used. They still show up on mobile devices, but the problem is their navigation suffers significantly. People have to resize their screens constantly, tilt their phones or tablets and otherwise do a lot of work to get the website the creator meant for them. And lest you think resizing and turning a device to the side isn’t “a lot of work”, keep in mind that today’s users are savvy enough to know that the information they want is probably just a click away on a site that will accommodate them. Also, sometimes no amount of altering a screen will be enough to make your website display correctly.
So it’s simple: become responsive or the scrap heap calls.
More “Penalties”…Are You Kidding Me?
It actually gets worse for non-responsive websites. Not only are more people going to be visiting sites through mobile devices, but Google will be “helping” them find websites that are responsive.
That is, “helping” them by scaring users off from your site.
The search engine giant announced on July 14th that its English platforms would begin indicating which sites are not responsive. Google even went so far as to call non-responsive sites “an annoyance” for its mobile users.
Now, this doesn’t mean anyone’s site is getting banned for not having a responsive interface. But Google’s new tactic could very well have the equivalent effect. Let’s say, by the end of the year, 51% of Google users are on a mobile device (and it could be a much bigger number). That’s a lot of your market no longer interested in your website. Yes, they could still decide to access it, but why take that risk?
Plus, as competitor sites embrace change, you’ll continue to lose real estate. Google hasn’t come outright and said that non-responsive sites will run into trouble in terms of its algorithm, but, again, that will almost certainly be the result. As your competitors continue to see attention from mobile users, your site will slip.
Many industry insiders also believe Google is trying to enforce a more unified coding system for websites. On a number of occasions, they’ve outright said what they prefer. Will responsive coding eventually become something they actively reward? It doesn’t seem that hard to believe.
So if you’re in the business of building websites, it’s time to make a change. Whether you propose and build sites for others or do so for yourself, go responsive or get comfortable with lower page ranks on the world’s most influential search engine.