By John Eberhard
Soon Google will implement changes in their algorithm that controls how well your site ranks for various keywords, to consider whether or not the site is mobile friendly. And in typical Google fashion, they will soon punish you if it is not.
So what does this term “mobile friendly” mean exactly? And how can I tell if my site is mobile friendly?
“Mobile friendly” means the site will display well on a smart phone. If you have not taken steps to ensure that your site will display well on a mobile, it is a safe bet that it is NOT mobile friendly. The easiest way to check is to take a smart phone and pull up the browser and enter your web address.
If your whole web site page appears on that tiny little screen, with tiny type that you can hardly read, that is NOT mobile friendly. A mobile friendly site will appear with type that is large enough to read on that smart phone screen, and usually will re-arrange the items so you don’t have the scroll from side to side to see everything.
Here is a Google page where it will analyze whether your site is mobile friendly:
There are two different ways you can make a site mobile-friendly:
A responsive web design is where the site is arranged in such a way that the contents rearrange themselves on a smaller screen, they are large enough to read, and you only have to scroll down, not side to side.
There are some design considerations with responsive, such as you have to design your large photos and things like that so that they will resize on a smaller screen. Also, slide shows on the home page are a common design element today. Some slide show programs are hip to this responsive design and some are not. The Revolution slide show is fully responsive, meaning it will resize the slide show on a smaller screen. The Nivo Slider is not.
Also if your pages have things like columns on them, which is a common thing today, you have to make these in such a way that the columns will move down the screen rather than being cut off to the right.
A responsive design will take your sidebar, if your site has one, and move it down the screen so it is seen lower down.
So how do you get a responsive web design if you don’t have one now? There are now many WordPress themes that are responsive. Or you can hire a designer to put your site, the way it looks now, into a responsive WordPress format. If you have a site that was built in HTML using a program like Dreamweaver, it can be rebuilt in Dreamweaver making it responsive.
The second way to make a site mobile friendly is using what is called “adaptive web design.” This is where you build a separate version of the site specifically for mobile phones. Then you put code onto the site that recognizes the type of device the person is using, whether it be a desktop or laptop, or a pad, or a smart phone. If the person is on a smart phone, the smart phone version of the site will be served up.
Often on an adaptive site design, it will have fewer pages than the desktop version.
Which Do You Choose?
I have done both responsive and adaptive web designs, and there are pluses and minuses of each. A responsive design is more complicated and will probably cost you more. An adaptive design is easier and less expensive, but you will usually not have your total web site content in mobile form. Each will “pass” the test at that Google address I gave above.
Google has stated their preference for responsive web designs.