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So if Google says “JUMP” do we have to?

Posted on March 30, 2015
Archive : March 2015
Category : News
There used to be a time when it was true to say that nobody really owned the internet. I believe that time has long gone. With the meteoric  rise of search engines and in particular the dominance of Google I believe we’ve allowed them to become the owners. Do we want this? Do we like this? Do we even care?
However, the latest communication from Google  may just start to change that. I’m talking about the announcement that mobile friendly websites will rank better in the search results. OK I’ve been deliberately vague, I know that’s not what they have said exactly however that’s what most users are hearing.
3 things you should know about the announcement:
  1. Google are only talking about searches done on a mobile device.
  2. Making your site fully mobile friendly won’t mean that it will automatically rank well. It’s still only part of the ranking signals used by Google.
  3. Choosing a fully responsive layout can seriously limit the design of your website!

As a website development company you would think we would be rubbing our hands in glee and sending out a message to all our site owners along the lines of “Quick, pay me to make your website fully responsive so that you rank on Google” In fact you may have received a number of such approaches… So why aren’t we?

The answers simple. The cost to you and your business may simply not be worth it. Let me explain:

Although the use of mobile devices to view the web has increased and is likely to continue to, it’s not the only way we view web content. We each make decisions all the time as to which platform to use, mobile for quick look-up of contact details and directions and maybe some price checking online while shopping in store, apps for social media, booking online and other more complex tasks and the good old desktop or laptop for the real work and in-depth analysis. So while I may do a quick search on my mobile if I want to view in detail I’m likely to check the site out at a later date on my Desktop.

So why are Google insisting that all sites should now be designed for the smallest screen that a user could choose? Why are they rewarding those that do? Our websites work very well on mobile devices. You can view them, scroll them, pinch and squeeze them and they look just fine. They don’t pass Googles mobile friendly test however.

In order to pass “The Test” websites need to be fully responsive. These websites adjust themselves dynamically to fit within the display area of the device. This can actually be a negative, since a highly designed main site has less option to appear exactly how you may want it to appear. Many sites transfer well to a responsive environment, some do not. The more complex your website design the more difficult (and expensive) this becomes.

So what’s my problem with fully responsive design? The reality is that most of the responsive sites I’m seeing are quick and cheap fixes. They almost look like clones of one another and viewing them on a tablet has become less engaging and boringly predictable. The rush to tick a box and pass a test is dumbing down web design! It’s really hard to deliver a creative and unique design that relays itself to fit even the smallest screen and still look great. Much easier to just stick everything in neat little tiles and then sell that template to as many website owners as possible!

The truth is that most of your users will be searching for and viewing your content on a larger screen

Look before you leap!

So before rushing off to comply with Googles demands please consider the following:

  • Are your potential customers likely to be viewing your content via mobile or desktop
  • Where would you like them to view it? (It’s OK to delight most users at the cost of not being available to all)
  • Does your site currently rank well on search engines? If it doesn’t you have more important tasks to take care of!
  • Is the design of your site important to your brand? Are you trying to build something highly styled and unique?
  • Do your users need to interact with your site to complete complex tasks? If they do then an App might be the way to go.
  • Are you considering this purely because your site doesn’t pass the test or because you want higher rankings on Google?

The reason I recommend considering this carefully is that unless you have other business reasons for looking at a new website, just making it mobile friendly won’t make a positive difference to your bottom line. If you are building a brand new site or have other business reasons to redo your current site then please look at responsive design as part of the process.

Now I’m just off to contact http://www.bbc.co.uk/, http://www.wikipedia.org/ and http://www.dailymail.co.uk/ because I noticed their websites all fail “The Test”, I’m sure there’s a sales opportunity there!!
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