In the past three years since I joined The Whole Caboodle’s Digital department, the importance of mobile friendly website designs has gone from a nice to have to a necessity. In December 2012, over 50% of people with a mobile phone in EU countries had a smartphone, and now in 2015 we’re already a few months past the point where mobiles are being used more frequently than Desktop PCs for internet browsing. (Stats from Comscore)
We’ve changed the way we build websites as a result. These days it’s now more important to consider how a website will look on a mobile phone at the first stage of the process. As of April this year, Google now penalises websites that are not mobile friendly and rewards those that are, so if you’re not in a niche market and you’re keen to rank well in Google’s listings, then this is key.
Websites can be built with a separate mobile design, or built responsively. So what does this mean and how do you decide which option suits you best?
A website with a ‘responsive’ design will change appearance depending on the device being used so that it’s ‘user friendly’. What you see on a desktop screen is likely to be far too small to see on a small iPhone screen for example, and it won’t work the same way when clicked with a finger instead of a mouse. So on a responsive website, the content and design of the page will change depending on the device used to access it. Navigation menus will stack into a tucked away roll out menu, some parts of the page might be switched off on mobile and just the key information will remain.
Your website visitors will use the site differently, depending on whether they are accessing it from a desktop device, a tablet or a mobile. As screen sizes get smaller, people are less likely to sit and read long articles or spend a long time looking for what they need. So the content on the page needs to be boiled down to make it easy for your customers.
If you have an Ecommerce site, whilst it might be helpful to give your customers lots of search filters to narrow down their product search on a desktop screen, this is likely to be too complicated when on a smaller device, so you might change the search process on a mobile to make it easier.
The way your users move around and interact with the site is called the ‘user journey’ and, like in this example, if the user journey is considerably different on a mobile device it may be better to have a completely different design and functionality for mobile users. This is when we would recommend a specific mobile site, and we might also recommend a mobile site if you have a lot of images or heavy content on your desktop site, because connection speeds tend to be slower on mobile phones (3G).
Mobile sites are effectively a different website, and this can mean that you have two sites to manage content on and to optimise for search engines. But the advantage is that your users have a completely tailored experience, and Google can see this too, so you’ll be rewarded in search result rankings.
Whether you choose a specific mobile site or a responsive site, it will mostly depend on what you want your website to do for your customers. Either way, taking the appearance of your website on smaller devices into consideration will make your user’s experience more straightforward.
Therefore they are less likely to leave your site in favour of another which can be used without having to zoom in and out, scroll around the page to find buttons and interact with the site properly.
Now that it’s common knowledge in the industry that mobile traffic is key, attention has turned to how to optimise websites for specific devices.
These days it’s not just all about the iPad, there are a range of tablets from its smaller counterparts the iPad mini and iPad air, to option like the Samsung Galaxy note and the Google Nexus, which are used by many people. And the mobile landscape is changing too – although the iPhone is still King, the Samsung Galaxy is hot on its heels in the popularity stakes and there are many other smartphones out there.
This means that the design for Responsive sites is more complicated as we need to design exactly how the site will look on a range of devices. We build our sites to be optimised on the 3 most popular devices across mobile, desktop and tablet, and to work on the 3 most popular browsers too, and we can design for specific devices if required.
The important thing to remember is – it’s not rocket science. It’s Digital and we know it well. We can help you to decide on the best option for you and your users.
Now here’s a little bit of fun – take a look at two of our recent builds and see for yourself the difference between a Mobile site and a responsive site.
One of our many motor industry clients, we’ve created this one with a separate mobile site to keep things simple for their users. We’ve also designed the Content Management System behind the scenes especially for their requirements, and it’s been created so that they don’t have to manage mobile and desktop content separately for both sites. As it happens, we know motors too so we’ve hit the nail on the head here and it’s now in demand!
Here’s the Greenwich School of Management London website – http://www.gsmlondon.ac.uk/
GSM London tasked us with building a hard working new website which captures the information they need for marketing, whilst being informative and easy to use for their mainly mobile audience. This site was designed from mobile up to desktop, instead of the traditional desktop first approach. Take a look at this responsive site on your tablet and mobile phone to see how it works. It’s magic!
Get in touch with the Digital team for our take on your new website. We’ll make it sing!