From 21st April Google searches will prioritize web sites that are optimised for mobile browsing. The effect will be to weight results against web site owners whose sites do not deliver “mobile friendly” content.
A mobile friendly web site, like the one below from our design studios, is one which renders its layout “on the fly” according to the dimensions of the device asking for content. This may include resizing images, changing column widths, and re-arranging layout so that information can be optimally displayed on tablets or mobile phones.
Until recently, web sites have been developed primarily for desktop and laptop display. This poses problems for users who want to view web sites with small screens and Google thinks this matters. For instance, users might have trouble using page links that are designed for mouse clicks rather than index fingers. Also, without changing column widths to suit small screens users may have to scroll across a screen several times on a tablet or mobile phone to read one line of text before scrolling back to return the left margin for the next line.
A mobile friendly, or mobile-responsive site, is capable of re-ordering textual and graphical content to deliver a web page in the best format for the device that is calling for the content whether the device is a mobile phone, tablet, laptop, desktop, or even a large television screen.
Business decision makers still tend to rely on a desktop layout when deciding on a new web site. However, Google’s attitude is that “desktop” searches are rapidly losing pace to searches from other devices. Google’s findings are based on their own statistics. The proliferation of devices available to consumers means that modern web sites need to deliver alternate layouts to deliver a good experience to users. The web site below, again from our design studios, shows that a fully mobile responsive web site is capable of re-positioning headers, navigation bars, and image sizes. In this case, the web site’s “sidebar” has been also been replaced in the mobile phone layout so that a user scrolling down the page would find the sidebar positioned at the end of the page.
In this way, the choice of desktop layout that the decision maker opted for when choosing a web site is irrelevant to other devices. According to market analyst Comcast, the number of mobile devices using the Internet exceeded conventional desktop machines in 2014, and with smart-phone ownership in countries like the UK and USA already in the hands of 60% of the general public, search engines are responding to user trends which indicate an increasing reliance on portable and mobile devices.
As Google responds to increasing search requests from portable devices, it is weighting its output to take account of the format of available information its searches output.
Regardless of the techniques businesses use to improve their “relevance” to search engines, Google’s announcement means that web sites which are not optimized for mobile devices are being discounted.
Google makes changes to its algorithms twice a month on average. The search engine emphasizes search results that connect users with relevant content in an easily interpreted formats. Google’s new attitude recognizes for the first time that web sites designed on the basis of desktop appearance alone no longer meet the needs of a market that is predominantly “mobile” based. Web site owners may argue that end users still rely on desktop machines for their web sites. Google says that this is just not the case any more and their move to prioritize mobile friendly sites suggests that reliance on desktop layouts only is a moot point if consumers have found other competing content that has been positioned by Google for formatted delivery specific to devices that searched for results in the first place.
Read Google’s announcement here.