How Exactly Do You Make Your Website Mobile-Friendly?

by Maxim Emelianov February 23, 2016
February 23, 2016

In 2014, the number of smartphone users in the world was over 1.75 billion. This year, that number will top 2 billion. And by the end of 2018, more than half of people in the world will own a smartphone.

People use their smartphones for a great many things. Keeping in touch with friends and relatives. Playing games. Checking email and doing work. Browsing the web.

You’re no doubt aware that we’re well past the point at which mobile devices overtook fixed desktops as the primary avenue through which we surf the ‘net. And that in turn means that you can no longer afford to ignore mobile optimization. If your website offers a poor user experience for people who connect to it with a smartphone, you’re alienating a huge portion of your userbase.

In so doing, you’re driving them right into the arms of your competitors.

And in case you needed another reason to embrace mobility in your web design, Google now treats mobile friendliness as a ranking factor. So a poor mobile experience not only drives away your users, but also reduces your ranking in the SERP.

Ouch, right? At any rate, we’ve established that it’s imperative for you to make your website mobile-friendly. Let’s talk about how you can accomplish that.

Generally Speaking, Don’t Use A Dedicated Mobile Portal

The most traditional means of dealing with mobility is to create two separate websites – one that loads for desktop users, and the other that loads for smartphones and tablets. As I’m certain you’ve already surmised, the main drawback of this approach is that it basically doubles the work you’ll need to do in order to maintain your site, to say nothing of the amount of work that’s required to make a mobile portal that’s adapted to every single device.

Besides that, remember how mobile devices outstrip desktops for web browsing? It’s far more efficient (and effective) to simply design a single page that displays properly, regardless of what the user is browsing on.

Understand Responsive vs. Adaptive Web Design

In its recommendations for building mobile-optimized websites, Google directly advocates using responsive web design – a practice that involves building pages that alter how they look based on the screen size of a user’s device. This allows you to offer all your site’s content via a single URL, making it easier for users to interact with it. At the same time, it also makes your content more discoverable by Google’s crawlers, and therefore likelier to rank high.

With responsive design, a page’s shape and size change based on CSS3 media queries, but the base HTML remains the same. There are only two drawbacks to doing things this way:

  • It makes updating old pages a chore, as you need to apply the changes so they display properly regardless of the dimensions set by the CSS3.
  • Generally speaking, you can’t take advantage of device-specific features.

Thankfully, Google does make allowances for this:

“We appreciate that for many situations it may not be possible or appropriate to use responsive web design,” explains Google Webmaster Trends Analyst Pierre Far. “That’s why we support having websites serve equivalent content using different, device-specific, HTML. The device-specific HTML can be served on the same URL (a configuration called dynamic serving) or different URLs (such as and”

You can read more about responsive web design here, and click here for a primer on adaptive web design.

…But Be Sure You Trim The Fat

Unless you’ve been actively looking for ways to reduce the size of your site, there’s a good chance that most of your pages suffer from bloat to one degree or another. That’s a problem – both because Google considers load speed a ranking factor and because it has a negative effect on the mobile experience. Generally speaking, you need to cut the following elements from your site:

  • Unnecessary rich media
  • Verbose copy
  • Intrusive or resource-heavy advertisements
  • Overly complex stylesheets

Alternatively, Look Into Mobile Apps

Here’s a question for you: why are people accessing your website? What do they hope to gain by seeking you out online? Depending on your answer, it might be more worthwhile to create a mobile app instead of a mobile website.

“For example, a large segment of airline customers typically want to accomplish a few specific tasks when they’re on the go,” explains Forbes contributor Susan Gunelius. “They want to check flight times and status updates, and they might want to make reservations. A mobile app that is strictly used for scheduling, ticketing and alerts would be extremely useful to these consumers. There are some companies that offer affordable mobile app development, such as Mippin’s Appsme, or you can hire a mobile app developer to create a fully-customized app at a higher cost.”

And If You’re A Retailer, Localize.

Last but certainly not least, consider optimizing your website for local search with details like address, contact information, and location-specific landing pages. Searches on mobile devices are 66% likelier to have local intent, which means that if you’re a retailer, there’s a lot to gain from local SEO. The more prospective customers that are able to find you, the better, right?

Closing Thoughts

Mobility’s not going away anytime soon. If you haven’t already updated your site to offer a user-friendly mobile experience, it’s imperative you do so as soon as possible. Otherwise, you’re going to be left behind by the competition.

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