On the web in general, and on consumer-facing websites in particular, we are seeing a shift towards mobile search. Users are increasingly surfing the net on their mobile devices, enjoying the flexibility, speed and convenience it offers. This transition from desktop to mobile represents a change in search habits, and once new habits have been established, that's what people will stick to. This means that mobile web design is more important than ever, and ensuring that your site is properly optimized for mobile search will be paramount to success in the future.
If you're currently on the fence about whether or not you need to improve your mobile site (or if you're having trouble deciding how to implement mobile) these five need-to-know facts about mobile web design and search should make the decision that much easier.
1. Mobile Search Will Soon Surpass Desktop Search
Mobile search is gaining popularity at a frenetic pace. In the not too distant future (maybe even as early as a year or so), we're going to see that mobile usage is passing desktop usage on websites. This means that the future of your website is going to depend on how you choose to approach your mobile user experience.
2. Mobile Friendliness Will Soon Be A Ranking Factor
While we haven't yet seen a significant reordering of search from desktop to mobile, this change is imminent. As mobile search continues to accelerate and Google strives for greater personalization in search results, mobile-friendly sites are going to perform better than those that aren't optimized. In fact, we are already beginning to see mobile friendly sites gaining some advantages in rankings, and Google will continue to go in this direction as mobile search becomes more salient.
3. Mobile Site Speed Is Critical
Site speed is paramount to the success of a mobile website. According to Google and Nielsen's 2013 Mobile Search Moments report, 81% of mobile searches are driven by speed and convenience. So, if your mobile site is very slow and provides a poor user experience, it is highly unlikely that visitors will return. Not to mention, there will be other websites (your competitors) that will provide users with a better mobile experience.
4. Responsive Design Will Take Care Of Mobile Usability Issues
The best option available for optimizing your website for mobile is responsive design, because it eliminates most of the usability issues that may arise on mobile devices. With responsive design, your CSS reacts based on screen width, meaning the site rebuilds itself to fit and work better for mobile. It also makes maintenance easier, as both your standard and mobile site use the same site, using the same file system, URL, and database (which means no internal duplication). Also, search engines don't have to index more than one page, so this is a great option from both a user and search engine standpoint.
5. Mobile Sub-domains Are Still A Good Option
If implementing responsive design is too complex or too expensive, a mobile sub-domain is still a good option. It does create duplicate pages, but Google is fine with this solution. From a maintenance standpoint it is not as easy as responsive design, but in most cases it is quicker and cheaper to develop. If you choose to use a mobile sub domain in place of responsive design, there should be a technical reason for it; maybe your CMS is too complicated, or maybe implementing responsive design will be so complex that it will break the budget. If this is the case, remember that mobile sub domains aren't a bad option.
It's usually not clear what strategies will help websites perform well in the future. But with mobile, the jury's out; already, we are seeing mobile-friendly sites gaining some advantages in search rankings, and because mobile search is becoming more popular, this trend will only increase. It is a must to have a mobile friendly website. If you don't, you will find your website rankings drop as mobile grows.
How are you adapting to the move to mobile? What design strategies are working for you? Let us know in the comments!