There’s a huge amount of anxiety in anticipation of Google’s new algorithm change scheduled for April 21st, which is meant to make it easier for mobile users to find mobile friendly sites. In other words, mobile friendly sites will get a boost in mobile search ranking over their non mobile friendly competitors. According to this post in Moz.com, the new change will not effect desktop search results.
This has got everyone scrambling to make sure that their websites pass Google’s mobile friendly test. The easiest way to do that is to maintain a responsive site. Responsive design is meant to make your website display correctly on different devices and screen sizes. So your desktop website should look almost as good on a tablet and smartphone. If you’re using WordPress, this shouldn’t be hard to do since most new WordPress themes are built to be mobile responsive.
The problem with using responsive design to look good on mobile is that although it technically does work, it doesn’t always prove to be business effective. That’s because responsive design resizes your page elements to fit on a smaller screen. It does NOT transform your website into a mobile effective site.
Let’s say you’ve got a slider or a large image that covers about half of your homepage, with a line or 2 of text in a huge font. It probably looks awesome on your laptop. But on a smartphone…not so great. You’ll have to scroll down for a while until you get down to some text that you can actually read. Then you’ll have to continue scrolling to read it all. If you were on your laptop you’d see the entire page on the screen in front of you at once. On a smartphone, you’ll probably give up and bounce before you ever make sense of what you’re looking at.
Responsive design is really only effective if you design your website with mobile effectiveness in mind from the start. That might mean that you have to give up some of your imagery and tone down your design grandeur in order to be effective on mobile. Simply using a mobile theme without designing for mobile might pass the Google mobile friendliness test (or not) and get your website to fit on a mobile screen, but not in a way that will help your business.
Uploading a WordPress plugin to transform your site into a mobile web app and expecting it to work without any modifications to your site isn’t going to work either. Your blog might look good, but your pages will still be constrained by your desktop design.
Before searching for solutions it’s important to evaluate your business objectives to determine how important mobile is in your business strategy.
According to data from Nielsen 89% of consumer time spent on mobile is on apps as opposed to just 11% on mobile websites. Most of the apps consumers are using relate to social media, email and news apps.
For most B2B companies their mobile websites are probably not the driving force in their business strategy. Nevertheless, you want to have an effective presence for those prospects that do search via mobile. That doesn’t mean that your entire site including all of your content, landing pages and calls to action need to be perfectly optimized for mobile, since it’s unlikely that the B2B consumer will do all of their research on their mobile devices. But you need to give them enough easy to access information to get them to visit you on their desktop.
So, what are the solutions for making your website mobile effective?
If you’re a B2B company where mobile isn’t a major factor in generating leads, then you should use the design you feel will be most effective on desktop and then make it responsive. It might still not be very effective on mobile, but your business is coming via desktop so you don’t want to sacrifice the effectiveness of your desktop design.
A better solution would be to create a separate mobile website optimized for mobile devices. The mobile site doesn’t have to contain everything your main site does. It should focus on communicating your primary message and main features and have an easy to use contact form. Remember, all you want to do is give mobile prospects enough to either contact you or visit your desktop site.
If you’re using WordPress you can create a subfolder with a mobile theme, and install a mobile detect plugin on your main site to divert mobile users to the mobile site.
Whatever decision you take, make sure it stems from your business strategy and not just the desire to look good on mobile. But remember, just because it’s mobile responsive doesn’t mean it’s mobile effective.