The Quest For Mobile Speed, Part Three

Whew, I’m tired! This will be the last installment of the quest for mobile speed, even if later on I may write about something new I’ve discovered. It’s finally time to end this journey, which has taken on a life of it’s own. The previous quest for speed post was pretty epic; I expect this one to be much shorter… then again, what do I know? lol

This time around I’m adding two of my business websites along with talking about the blogs. I still have one website I haven’t addressed, mainly because I still haven’t figured out what I want to do with it. This still means I have 7 web properties to talk about. First, take a look at the numbers from the previous post because I’ve improved on all of them:
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The Quest For Blog Speed, Part Two

Two weeks ago I told y’all about the concept of mobile friendliness vs mobile speed and how I’d been losing all this traffic because the speed of my sites stunk even though all of my sites were considered mobile friendly. Well, I’ve been on a major quest to rectify this, and I’d like to share with you what I’ve been doing.

First, let me remind you that on the above post I showed that my friendly score was 100/100, and my mobile speed was 58/100. What I didn’t share was that my desktop speed was 61/100 at the time. All of my blogs were between 54 to 58 on speed and 58 to 61 on desktop before I started. Let me show you where I stand now, and I have to admit that I’m kind of proud, even if I’m not perfect yet:
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Mobile Friendly Versus Mobile Speed

I was looking at my site on Saturday night and I noticed my Alexa rank. Even though most people think there’s no use for Alexa, it turns out there is. and it scared me. I noticed that my traffic had dropped drastically and I wanted to see what the issue might be.

mobile friendly vs mobile speed
Friendly vs Speed

I looked at my Google Analytics and noticed that for every single one of my websites my traffic had dropped drastically around the beginning of May. I thought that was strange and I wasn’t sure why that was happening so I did some research.

It turns out that at the beginning of May is when Google decided to look at web sites and determine whether they were mobile friendly or not, which I thought I was totally prepared for. I had gone through a lot of work to make sure that all my websites were mobile friendly, and I had even checked them against this Google page that indicated that all my sites were mobile friendly. So what was the issue?

It seems mobile friendly isn’t the only thing to worry about. The other thing we have to worry about is mobile speed. I hadn’t paid that much attention to mobile speed because all everyone ever talked about was being mobile friendly. When I checked all my sites against mobile speed, even though they all still came up mobile-friendly, my mobile speed was around 60/100. It turns out that’s considered a poor mobile website; who knew?

I’m one of those people who is at least a little bit tech savvy. I’m also a pretty good researcher, so I did my thing and started doing all this research, then started finagling with code to try to get the mobile speed up to par. The problem was associated with compression, though initially I thought it might be a problem with image sizes. However, since my blogs won’t accept large files, I didn’t think it was that particular issue. It was associated with something called “gzip compression”; I don’t fully understand it but it didn’t mean I was scared to try to correct the problem.

At one point I actually succeeded in getting my mobile speed to 100/100, and thought that was pretty fantastic. However, two things happened. The first is that my mobile friendly went down from 100/100 to 72/100, which is only considered fair. The second is that all my websites suddenly had internal server errors; that wasn’t good.

I had to go back and remove all the new code that I had added to both php.ini and .htaccess to get my websites back; whew! Once that was accomplished, I dabbled around with the code for a longer period of time, finding more examples during my search including on the 1&1 site, which is where I host my sites.

Popsicle
I was tired & sweaty lol

After almost 3 hours I decided it was time to call 1&1 to see what they might offer. The recommendation that was on their site was from 2014, so I thought maybe it was out of date.

I spoke to the lady who told me she would send me a code I should add to .htaccess. When I got the code in the email it was the same code I had already tried. I wrote her back saying it didn’t work, gave her a screenshot of the Google test as well as other information that I had in both php.ini and .htaccess. After I hadn’t heard from them in a couple of hours I decided to go to bed (it was close to 2:30 in the morning after all lol).

Sunday morning I checked email and found that the reason none of what I was doing would work was because I was on a package that was 10 years old and they hadn’t just rolled it over, which seems like it would make sense until I realize that neither the phone companies or cable companies would do it automatically either. In essence, nothing I was doing was compatible with what everyone else might have because I’ve been with the same package for too long.

Sunday afternoon I finally made the call to 1&1 and, after having all my questions answered, I decided to upgrade my package. Here’s the funny thing though. Upgrading my package is costing me $0.13 more a month. Also, for the first year I’m getting it at $6 less than what it would normally cost, and they have to give me a prorated discount because they had just taken a payment against my credit card last week so they have to apply that to the new package. In essence, this means for the first year I will be paying them just under $50, and after that it will be $14.99 a month, which they’ll bill in one shot as opposed to the quarterly billing I’ve been paying. Not only that, but with the new package I won’t be paying $5.99 for extended PHP support, which I was paying because my sites weren’t compatible with the latest PHP under the old package; sigh…

Supposedly it’s going to take 3 to 5 days for everything to be working properly. After that time, it’s my expectation that I should at least be close to 100/100 for everything since compression will automatically be on via the hosting company. Hopefully this will result in a turnaround in my stats, although since it took 4 months for it to fall this far it just might take the same amount of time to get it all back… but I’m hopeful.

I tell this tale because I’m betting that some of you have been going through some of the same things I have. If you have exhausted all of your options and you’re still having issues with your website as it applies to being mobile friendly, you should check with your host to find out if your on a proper package that will help you take care of this issue. If only I had known back in May… sigh…
 

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Trying To Become Mobile Friendly Isn’t A Friendly Process

Ever since Google and a couple other search engines decided they wanted to rank websites that they consider mobile friendly higher than other sites, people like me have been tearing our hair out trying to figure out how to get there. I can tell you it’s not easy at all.

For those of you who haven’t heard about this or don’t understand what it means, let’s talk about mobile friendly sites for a quick minute.

Growing Smartphone Collection
Michael Kwan (Freelancer) via Compfight

It seems that more than 55% of all web traffic is now being performed via some type of mobile device. This means smartphones, tablets, readers, etc. It doesn’t mean laptops or notebooks and definitely not desktop computers.

Mobile friendly for the specific items I mentioned means that if someone pulls your website up that it’ll load fast and look like it was designed for a mobile experience since the screens are smaller than what some of us are traditionally used to. Strangely enough, it’s their expectation that the website needs to look good if someone’s looking at it on their phone vertically, which means the long way, rather than horizontally, meaning you’re looking at more physical real estate.

Frankly, I’m a horizontal viewer whenever I need to use my phone to look something up. It’s easier to hold my smartphone in two hands and easier to type that way. I might search for something vertically, but once I pull up a site I always move horizontally because it’s a better viewing experience in my opinion.

Never mind that for now I suppose. Let’s look at trying to get one’s site mobile friendly.

This is the link you can use to find out if your site is mobile friendly or not, courtesy of Google: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/. Go to this site and put in the URL of your website or blog.

If you’re having issues, go to this other link, also courtesy of Google: https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights. It will give you insights as to how you might fix whatever your issue might be.

You’ll get some kind of score. If you’re already using something on your blog to make your site mobile friendly (I use WP Touch) then you’ll probably come up as being friendly, although some people say it’s not 100% effective; I’ve done okay so far. If not, the most common issue is the font, in which case you just go into the plugin and select one of the supposedly favored Google fonts and get on with life.

Sony Xperia M4 Aqua
Creative Commons License Maurizio Pesce via Compfight

If it’s your website… you’re probably in some kind of trouble. Google will give you a score, then they’ll give you links that you can click on to refine what your issues are and give you a chance to fix them.

I have three static websites, and none of them are compliant. However, by working on some of these things all of them are at least 80% compliant, one of them at 93%. However, there are issues, which I’m going to point out and, maybe, some day someone will be able to help me get around them because so far the advice has been the same but none of the fixes have worked.

Before I go too far, let me tell you that size seems to be the major issue overall, as in how it will look on a smartphone if you’re looking at vertically, as I mentioned above. This is how they begin scoring you; after that it’s speed.

The biggest recommendation I kept getting was to add this code into the header: meta name=viewport content=”width=device-width initial-scale=1″. For every one of my sites, when I put this sucker in and tested the site again my score went down. So, instead of using this I started experimenting with different widths. I tried going larger first but it seems bringing it down in degrees works better. On the site I got to 93% I changed the width to 400; system assumes it’s pixels so I didn’t define it further than that. Eventually I tried taking out the “initial-scale=1” part and there are no difference in score at all.

The next thing is your fonts. For all my sites it kept telling me that the fonts were too small. I kept changing the pixel size, by degrees of course because you don’t want your site looking goofy; they say they don’t want it looking strange either. They recommend making the size 16px; only on the site that I got to 93% did it make a difference; not sure why it didn’t work on the other sites. Still, it’s something to play with.

After that you might have to do something with your logo image if it’s a large one. On two of my sites the logo is larger than 320px. If you try shrinking your logo it looks stupid; trust me on this one. However, the fix that was recommended that raised my score was to not put a “restrictive” size on the image. Instead, make the width 100%; it allows the phones to resize it somewhat… I’ll get back to this point later.

The final thing… do you run Adsense on any of your sites? On the site I’m getting the 93% on, my lingering issue has to do with my Google Adsense code. At first they were griping because I wasn’t using what they call an asynchronous version of their code. Turns out they changed their codes somewhere along the line; totally missed that.

So, I went back and changed the codes on most of my sites. The top code size is 728×90, which is one of the highest converting codes Google’s ever put out, and works well on my site (this is my medical billing site by the way). Guess what… Google hates that size! That’s the last thing it wants me to fix, and it’s their code!

Pffft--Daily Image 2011--October 7
Creative Commons License rochelle hartman via Compfight

Come on now; that’s just not fair! It’s still a code choice in Adsense, which means their own code isn’t mobile friendly. Thus, they’re going to penalize me and lots of other folks for using their own code; tell me that’s not the stupidest thing you’ve ever heard! Sigh…

Not only that, but when I looked at each of my websites after making the changes… vertically they all look stupid. Horizontally they look a lot better, and one can resize as necessary to read easier, especially with the larger phones.

Thus, my contention that trying to go mobile friendly isn’t a friendly process whatsoever, and Google is a big part of the problem. Trust me, I’ve researched this a lot and most of what I’m seeing either keeps recommending things that don’t work, like what I’ve mentioned above, or talks in riddles with language I just don’t understand. Many recommendations are to totally change your design, with an understanding that a lot of small businesses (me!) might not be able to do it for a while.

My saving grace? On two of my sites I have blogs attached to them that are mobile friendly. So, I shouldn’t take a big hit if I take one at all. The other one… I’m not really worried about it yet, however it’s the one site that just might need a total redesign because I built it in a very complicated way. I like it, but it’s never done what I wanted it to do so if I have the time it just might need some major reworking.

That’s my tale and my sharing… as much as I could. What have you been dealing with, if you’ve bothered to deal with it? I know my buddy Pete changed his sites over to WordPress so he could run the mobile app. I don’t have that luxury unfortunately, as I’m running a couple of scripts that I couldn’t run with that software. Anyway, share your thoughts on all of this; I need a cookie!
 

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