Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Responsive Design

 

It’s here folks. It’s been here for two whole days now.

I’m referring, of course, to Google’s latest algorithm update, in which they’ve basically made it impossible for mobile-unfriendly websites to rank in organic search. So what does this mean for you? If you’re not responsive by now, people aren’t going to find your site through Google. And that doesn’t just apply to mobile searches. This new update could affect how your site ranks on desktop searches as well.

I could wax philosophical about why this happened and why it’s important and beneficial for marketers and web-surfers alike, but I’ll cut to the chase and get to what you’re actually interested in: what you should do to remain relevant in Google’s eyes.

Mobile-friendly-websiteFirst of all, now isn’t the time to panic. It’s 2015. If your site isn’t already responsive, you’ve got bigger fish to fry. But please (please please please) listen to Google now, and do what they say. Think of it as when your parents said, “I’m not going to tell you again.” It’s time to shape up, or there will be consequences. Search results aren’t set in stone though; they’re flexible, and they change all the time. So even if your site has taken a hit from this, it’s never too late to get your act together and rebound.

Okay, so when I say get your act together…

I mean design and build a responsive website (or pay someone to design and build it for you). That’s a bit of a loaded sentence, though, so here are some of the most important things that we at Well Done Marketing take into consideration when designing and developing for mobile.

User experience is key. Aesthetics are nice, but it’s infinitely more important that your site is easy to use on a mobile device than that it simply looks good. This means making text big enough to read, buttons big enough to click, and a prioritized navigation that pares down options to the top priorities for mobile users.

Navigation is particularly important when it comes to user experience on mobile. You have less screen real estate, so you need to present the most important options up front. And when you define “important” make sure you’re thinking about how people use your site on a mobile device in particular, as web usage habits can vary drastically depending on whether someone’s using a desktop at home or a mobile device during their commute.

Consider the swipe in your design. Remember that people’s thumbs can reach only so far, so if your menu dropdown or signup button are really that important to you, you’ll make sure people can reach it without pulling a muscle.

Focus on performance. Fast connections aren’t always reliable for mobile devices, and site speed is a big ranking factor for Google. Lots of huge images on your site will drag it down considerably, so make sure you’re optimizing your image file sizes and consider using sprite sheets for icons, buttons, and small images to keep things running smoothly.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Responsive design is the first step to a well-thought-out mobile strategy, which is really what Google’s getting at. What’s good for website visitors is good for Google, so they want to make sure they’re serving up only the sites that provide really great mobile experiences.

Not sure if your site’s up to snuff? Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test will tell you. And you should probably start looking into the keywords your site is ranking for, if you’re not doing so already. If your organic search traffic and rankings start to drop off the map in the next week or so, you’ll know why. And how to fix it.