It is impossible to overstate the importance of mobile devices for modern internet marketing. The reasons for this are simple: research has shown that more ecommerce is happening on mobile devices; mobile devices are the primary means many consumers use for accessing the internet and in some cases, the only means; and mobile devices are the only way to reach consumers who are searching for information as they are shopping in stores. Most business owners have accepted this, but they still need to move past the mistaken belief that a responsive website design is all that is needed for an enjoyable mobile experience. Google has introduced a new Webmaster Tool to help website owners find and fix common mistakes in their mobile site presentation.
The biggest mistake business owners make when considering their mobile site is they focus on functionality rather than ease of use. A site that loads on a mobile device may still be difficult to use. These issues can be devastating to the performance of a mobile site. If features are difficult to use, they won’t be used, and it increases the odds that the user will go a site’s competitor. This new tool will help business owners avoid that outcome.
“Mobile is growing at a fantastic pace – in usage, not just in screen size. To keep you informed of issues mobile users might be seeing across your website, we’ve added the Mobile Usability feature to Webmaster Tools,” wrote John Mueller on the Google blog. “The new feature shows mobile usability issues we’ve identified across your website, complete with graphs over time so that you see the progress that you’ve made.”
These Mobile Usability Reports focus on six common areas where design issues make a site harder to use on mobile devices:
Flash content – Some mobile devices don’t allow for Flash content, which means anything important presented in Flash is lost to mobile users. Additionally, it makes the mobile site look broken.
Missing viewport (a critical meta-tag for mobile pages) – The viewport tag tells the mobile browser how to handle certain scaling situations. For example, the tag would properly scale a site with vertical menu and a main content container.
Tiny fonts – Another potential issue caused by responsive sites. As a page is scaled down, the font may be scaled to a point where it is no longer legible. Google has some specific CSS tricks that can be used to prevent this from happening.
Fixed-width viewports – Similar to the missing viewports, a fixed-width viewport can’t change to fit the size of the device. This means users can end up with a menu sidebar that takes up the most of their mobile device screen, thus making the site unusable.
Content not sized to viewport – If the viewport scales properly, but the content doesn’t, everything will look messed up (that’s a technical term). For example, icons could be larger than the viewport areas.
Clickable links/buttons too close to each other – Touch screen accuracy can be spotty on some devices, so having buttons that are too close to one another makes clicking the right spot difficult. This is why mobile sites should have large buttons so they’re easy to hit and they should be well spaced so it’s difficult to hit the wrong button by accident.
Fixing these issues are vital for business owners who want their customers to use the mobile site for shopping and on-the-go research. Using the Mobile Usability Feature will help webmaster quickly pinpoint areas where they can improve their mobile site. Remember, it’s counterproductive to pour resources into a fancy desktop site that is unusable by mobile users. If a business has a feature-heavy site that only works on desktop, they need to create a separate site just for mobile devices that follows that the basic design guidelines for mobile sites. The mobile audience is so large that to cut them out by default severely handicaps a business. There is even some thought that mobile usability may be added into the Google algorithm as a ranking factor in the future.
There’s no reason for website owners to not use the new Mobile Usability Feature from Google. It’s simple, fast, free and provides information a business needs to improve their site. Fixing the six types of issues covered by the reports will undoubtedly help a business see more conversion from their mobile site. Besides the things covered by the Mobile Usability Reports, there are other factors for good mobile design that business owners should be checking, such as load times. For more tips on mobile compatibility, read this article with four tips for creating a more tablet-friendly site or this article with four ways to make a site more useful to mobile audiences.