We keep hearing that our sites need to be “mobile friendly” but what does mobile friendly really mean?
A few years ago the focus was on limiting the bandwidth needed to load each page. In other words, the assumption was that mobile users normally used their mobile phone network (O2, ee, three etc) to view pages.
This meant the focus was on devising all sorts of clever techniques to optimise images etc so that mobile users downloaded a different (smaller) to the one a “normal” desktop users would use.
Now while this is an important aspect of what it means to be mobile friendly, most of the time I’m using my mobile online, I’m using a nice big fat Wifi connection which in turn connects to the web using a nice big fat broadband connection – bandwidth isn’t an issue.
How we use our phones
In fact, for me, mobile friendly is much more about the screen size and how we use our mobile devices. More specifically it’s about scrolling. We’re happy to scroll up and down when we’re using a mobile but scrolling left and right at the same time is a big no-no.
This is the key. For your site to be mobile friendly it needs to be easy to use on a mobile device. You need to take a good hard look at your site’s content and ask yourself which parts of the site are most important. A good mobile friendly site will then make sure these important parts of your site come further up.
Displaying the content in the right order on a mobile device is good. Good for you because you get to promote the important parts of your site first. It’s also good for your customers because, like you, they probably have a busy life so you need to help them find what they want as quickly as they can.
So when is a mobile device not a mobile device?
When it’s a tablet or iPad? I’d say so. OK, so an iPad is light enough to carry around with you so in hat sense it’s mobile but when you think about the screen size, it’s more than able to display most websites just as well as a laptop. When I’m using an iPad I want to see the full-sized, desktop version of the site with all the bells and whistles.
Displaying the full version of your site in all its glory whenever you can is also good for you and good for your customer. If you’ve can lay everything out for them you offer them the best experience of your site.
So being mobile friendly isn’t a purely technical challenge. Sure, when you want to make sure your site is mobile friendly you obviously need make certain your web development partner has the right technical skills, but you also need to make sure they can work with you to understand your business needs. This includes helping you to understand which parts of your site are most important and how you can design your site to make sure your customers don’t miss it – irrespective of what device they are using!
Photo credit: Johan Larsson