Posted by Mitch Mitchell on May 7, 2015
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.
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.
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!
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!