In case you missed the news, Google have made some big changes to their search algorithms for 2017. This gives us a lot of things to be thinking about to keep our websites up to date and working well. Let's have a quick look at what it means for your website to be mobile friendly and what you can do to check if your website is up to scratch.
What Does Mobile Friendly Actually Mean?
Mobile friendly simply means that your website is easy to view on a mobile device. That could be a mobile phone or tablet computer. This is not a new concept and 'responsive' websites have been around for a number of years. This means that when you view a website on a mobile device, the fonts change size and the layout adapts to the screen to make the content easy to read. There is also the issues of the menu; A standard navigation menu doesn't work well on a mobile. Neither does an over the top homepage with complicated navigation options. That's why you'll see most website adopting a 'hamburger' style menu icon on mobile (the 3 lines that you click on to make the menu pop out from the side or top of the mobile screen!)
There is another important factor to consider...How fast does your website load? When you're at home on the desktop computer or laptop this is less noticeable because you probably have a fast internet connection. When you are out of the house and trying to view a website on your phone, a slow website is far more apparent. How many times have you clicked off a website on your phone because it didn't load fast enough?
Oh and there is the issue of animations. These don't translate very well onto a small screen and features such as sliders on the homepage quickly become unusable on mobile.
Making a website mobile friendly can involve adapting a mixture of these issues. Your website should be fast, responsive, clear and easy to read without distracting or confusing the user.
How Can I Check My Website is Mobile Friendly?
Google have very kindly produced a few different website tests for us to use to check our sites. They will give you a good idea about your site and offer some suggestions, but as you will see - they don't always tell the full story.
Mobile Friendly Test
The first test we are going to run is the Google mobile friendliness test. Once you are on the page you simply enter your website url and hit enter. We decided to run the test on our own website for Perspective Design.
Here are the results that we were shown. As you can see, the test results are very basic and just give you a simple answer. This is a good start but it doesn't really tell us much about the website.
Think With Google
The second test that we are going to use is a little different. Again, once you get to the site, simply type in your url and hit the 'TEST NOW' button. It will take a few moments but gives you a nice progress bar to see how far you have got.
Once the test has finished running, you will be presented with 3 different results for your website:
- Mobile Friendliness
- Mobile Speed
- Desktop Speed
For each of the results, Google will award your website a score out of 100. Here are the results for Perspective Design.
As you can see, our results for mobile friendliness is good, but the mobile speed and desktop speed don't look great. If you scroll down the page you'll see a bit more detail about each of the results, but as you will see in the screenshots below, there is not really much more information in there.
If you click on the 'see what to fix' link you will be presented with some more specific information about the problems with your site. Here's the mobile speed details for our site.
As you can see we now have some more specific things to focus on to get our website up to scratch. If your site scores low on these tests, it's worth contacting your web developer to see if they can help you to work on the issues found.
Google Pagespeed Insights
It is worth pointing out that if you are looking for the technical details of what to fix on your website, we personally use the Google Pagespeed Insights. This gives you exactly the same information but in a single screen. It also hides all the 'passed' results so you can focus on what you need to do. Compare the two screenshots above and you'll see that the results are actually identical.
Why Is The Google Mobile Speed Result Not Actually Speed?
Have you noticed that although all of these websites claim to give you a measure of the speed, none of them actually give you a result measure in a unit of time? This is not so helpful when they make suggestions like 'Nearly half of all visitors will leave a mobile site if the pages don't load within 3 seconds'.
I don't know why Google have chosen not to include a measure of the time it takes to load the website, but never fear, there is another test for that.
GTmetrix is a free tools that will help you to find out how long your website takes to load and also gives you suggestions on what you can do to improve the performance of your website. Once again, here are the results for Perspective Design...
Do I Need to Get 100%
The short answer is no. It is unlikely that you will be able to get your website to 100% without sacrificing some of the functionality. None of these fully factor in the trade off between performance and design choices. For example, our website is flagged for 'Browser Caching' but if you actually study the results you will find that the issues are not with our own server. Actually, the report was listing files coming from Google's own server (specifically Google Analytics and Google Fonts). Now we could choose not to use Google Analytics to track how many people are viewing our site. We could also choose to just used a standard font for our website and simplify the design, but I would rather trade off the benefits against getting 100% on Google's mobile test.
Now that you know what tests are available, go and try it on your own website. If you just want a yes of no answer, then go for the Mobile Friendliness Test. If you want to give yourself a to-do list of things to improve your website and don't care what the results look like, I'd skip the Think with Google site and go straight for Google Pagespeed Insights. If you want to know an actually measurement of the speed of your website, try the GTmetrix test.
Once you have got your list of things to improve, start working through them and keep retesting to see if your improvements are making a difference. Try not to get too caught up in getting to 100% but do try and get your page load speed down to less than 3 seconds. I now know that we need to optimise some of the images on our own site to reduce the page load speed.
If this sounds too technical and time-consuming for you and you would rather leave it to the experts, then why not find a developer who can help you optimise your website. If you are paying them by the hour, I can tell you that the last 20% will take a heck of a lot longer to achieve that the first 80%!
All of these tests rely on a computer auditing the code of your website to see if it meets a pre configured list of requirements. It can't really tell you if your website looks good because that is a personal preference. In fact, with Google Analytics, the best you can do is see how many people are viewing your site and how long they stay looking at a page for.
Even though speed was only one of the issues mentioned at the start of this article, I have found that all of these reports tend to focus on it. If we are not careful, we can end up with a skewed perspective if all we think about is speed. Remember that speed is only one factor of a Google Mobile Friendly website!