What is Mobile First Indexing?

In March 2018, Google announced that they were starting to migrate their crawling method over to mobile-first indexing. What this means is that Google is beginning to use mobile versions of websites for indexing and ranking, where previously they prioritised the desktop version of a site.

(Note that Google have said that they will continue to have a single index that serves all Google search results; therefore, they won't be implementing a separate 'mobile-first' index.)

The switch to mobile-first indexing represents a reversal in the way Google approaches website content. A majority of web traffic now comes from mobile devices, and it's encouraging to see Google responding to this shift and striving to make everyone's browsing experience as enjoyable as possible.

Mobile First Indexing

How will mobile-first indexing affect my website?

Google's announcement indicated that websites won't be removed from the index just because they are not mobile friendly. However, Google will generally prioritise mobile-friendly websites in their results if the user is searching on a mobile device. We anticipate that desktop-only sites will lose organic search traffic as more and more Internet users shift away from PCs and towards smartphones.

If you have a responsive website, you shouldn't have to take any action - Google will recognise that your site is mobile friendly and continue to show it in search results.

If you do not have a responsive website, we would encourage you to switch to a more mobile-friendly design. At Designer Websites, we specialise in responsive websites that load quickly and function perfectly across all devices, providing an outstanding experience for desktop and mobile users alike.

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Mobile User Experience

Mobile user experience should be a core consideration for all web designers and online businesses in 2017. A huge portion of all online activity now takes place on a smartphone; Google have even created a completely separate index to make sure they're giving mobile searchers the best possible results. Even if your website works like a dream on larger screens, you'll lose a lot of potential customers if it's a nightmare for smartphone users.

So what can I do to make mobile users happy?

If you want to get a good return from your site's mobile visitors, you'll need to think about the user experience you're offering and how this translates to smaller screens. Mobile user experience quality depends on many different factors, but here are a few key areas to focus on:

Use a responsive design.

The first step towards total mobile-friendliness is upgrading to a responsive website design. Browsing a non-responsive website on a smartphone usually means 'pinching' to zoom in and get a proper look at the content; a well-designed responsive website will automatically adapt to fit the screen it's being viewed on, so no matter what device your customer is using, your content should display perfectly with no pinching required.

Don't bury important content.

One mistake that lots of people make these days is assuming that mobile users are happy to scroll indefinitely in order to reach the piece of content they need. It's true that scrolling is a more comfortable and fluid action than clicking/tapping, and because of this, it's safe to assume that most mobile users would rather scroll through a long page than click through several small pages (this is why people don't like those articles that display information in the form of a click-to-proceed slideshow). However, smartphone users don't have an infinite supply of patience, and you won't be doing anybody any favours by putting your important content at the bottom of the page, several screen-lengths down.

Wherever possible, the 'meat' of your page should sit above the fold (or, failing that, not too far below the fold). Make your important content - your call to action, your key info - immediately visible rather than assuming that people will be happy to scroll down to find it.

Be fast!

If there's one thing that everyone on the web (but especially the average mobile user) hates, it's a page that takes an eternity to load. Even if you don't care about ticking off smartphone owners, you should be striving to ensure that your website loads quickly for the benefit of your desktop visitors; if you are serious about maximising your mobile conversions, then site speed becomes even more important because lots of mobile users are browsing within a very limited time window. Perhaps they're killing time while they wait for the bus, or perhaps they're already on the bus and they've got one minute to peruse your website before their stop arrives - either way, time is of the essence and long loading times will cause frustration and quite possibly prompt people to try one of your competitors instead.

If you're not sure how to boost your website's loading speeds, try typing your URL into Google's PageSpeed Insights tool.

Space out your clickable elements.

Tapping a smartphone screen with your finger is a less refined, less accurate action than a mouse click, so if there's something on your website that you want lots of people to click on (e.g. a 'Contact Us' button, a hyperlink within a paragraph of text), you'd better make it easy for them. In order to meet the basic standard for mobile-friendliness, all clickable elements on your website should be:
  1. A good distance from all other clickable elements
  2. Big enough to tap with ease
Crowding a whole bunch of links into a small space increases the likelihood that users will click the wrong link by accident. Giving your clickable elements a tiny 'click zone' that requires hyper-accurate tapping increases the likelihood that users will need multiple attempts in order to land a successful click. Both of these outcomes are very frustrating for the user and will seriously damage their experience of your site, so make sure your clickable objects are large and reasonably far apart.

Make the user's journey short and simple.

Think of your website as a running track. The end user is a sprinter, and they cross the 'finish line' whenever they complete a conversion on your site ('a conversion' being the thing that you ultimately want users to do on your website - this could mean making a purchase, requesting a quote, subscribing to your newsletter, et cetera). Between the user and the finish line are a series of hurdles: actions that they must complete and hoops they will have to jump through in order to reach the conversion stage.

Your mission is to make those hurdles as few and as minuscule as possible. Make that running track as short and as unobstructed as you possibly can!

Here are a few example of 'hurdles' and how you can help your mobile users to overcome them with ease:
  • Finding the right page. The first 'hurdle' for most visitors to a website is working out where to find the thing they're looking for. You can minimise this hurdle with a clear site layout and intuitive navigation (i.e. not too many menu options, self-explanatory category names).

  • Entering payment details. This is a huge hurdle on some ecommerce websites - entering your credit card number and billing address and so forth is a tedious, time-consuming task, especially when you're using a touchscreen rather than a computer keyboard. Minimise this hurdle by using an online wallet service like PayPal or allowing users to create accounts and save their payment details for future purchases.

  • Entering contact details. Even if you're not selling anything through your website, the inevitable 'fill out this form' stage can still be a big hurdle for users en route to a conversion. Whether you're encouraging users to send a message, request a quote / call back / free sample, or sign up for something, they will always be forced to painstakingly tap in their details; however, you can minimise this hurdle by only asking for information that is crucially important. For example, why ask for someone's postcode, telephone number and date of birth if all you really need is a name and an email address?
If you need help optimising your website for mobile visitors, Designer Websites can help - get in touch now to request a quotation for your project.
Google's New Mobile Index

We've discussed this rumour before, and now it looks like it's really happening: Google have confirmed that they are creating a completely separate index for mobile searches, meaning you may soon see two completely different sets of results for the same Google search on your smartphone and your desktop PC.

This revelation isn't completely out of the blue, of course. Google's mobile and desktop results have been gradually looking less and less alike for quite some time now - in fact, we're already at the point where many websites rank highly for their keywords on desktop but not on mobile (or vice versa). However, all results are currently still pulled from the same Google index, and the forthcoming split could have a big impact on the SERPs when it happens.

And that's not all. Google's latest statement included the assertion that, to quote Search Engine Watch:

"This mobile index will become the primary Google index. The newly separated desktop index will not be kept as up-to-date as the mobile one."

In other words, the new mobile-specific index will take priority over the current index. This may seem surprising at first, but it actually makes perfect sense; more than half of all Google searches now come from mobile devices, so of course the company would want to ensure the quality of their mobile results above all else. 

With that in mind, the question that SEO-savvy business owners should now be asking is...

How can I rank highly in Google's mobile results when the new index arrives?

Some people will be reading this because they've already got high mobile rankings and they're anxious to keep them. Others may be here because they've never had much luck in Google's mobile SERPs, and they're wondering if this new index could be their big opportunity to change that.

Whichever boat you're in, here are a few tips for making sure you don't get left behind when Google's mobile-only index eventually comes into play:

1. Make sure your website is mobile-friendly.

This is a no-brainer, but since a lot of business websites still aren't optimised for mobile users, it's worth stating anyway. The best way to ensure that your website will work well on smartphones is to plump for a responsive design that automatically adapts to fit the screen it's viewed on - more on that subject here.

Some non-responsive websites have so far managed to slip through Google's net and rank reasonably well in mobile SERPs even though they're not mobile-friendly. However, the forthcoming mobile-specific index will almost certainly put paid to that, so it's a good idea to upgrade now and use Google's own mobile-friendliness testing tool to ensure that you're giving smartphone users the best possible experience.

2. Minimise your page loading times.

If there's one thing that we all hate to see when browsing the Internet on a mobile device, it's a webpage that takes ages to load. Excessive load times discourage mobile users from interacting with your website, and if you don't speed things up, Google will quickly boot you out of their mobile rankings in favour of a site that doesn't force visitors to wait around.

In order to ensure that your website is loading as quickly as possible, test it using Google's PageSpeed Tools. This will inform you of any changes you can make to boost your site's load speed.

Google PageSpeed Insights

You may also wish to consider using AMPs (Accelerated Mobile Pages), a recent Google initiative that aims to make the web instantaneously accessible on mobile devices - learn more here.

3. Optimise for local searches.

If your mobile customers have their location services turned on, Google will serve them local results for certain queries. Here's what that looks like:


If this so-called 'local pack' shows up for your primary keywords, that's a good indicator that you need to be thinking about local SEO. You want your shop (or restaurant, office, clinic, etc.) to show up prominently in Google results when someone in the area searches for your service, and this can be achieved by:
  • Add your business on Google My Business. Add your opening hours and a short written description of your organisation; you may also wish to embellish the listing with images.

  • Ensure that your company name, address, and contact details are consistent throughout the Internet (i.e. on your website, your Google listing, your social media profiles, and any other listings you have online).

  • Encourage people to review your business on Google, as well as on other well-known websites that publish reviews of local businesses (e.g. Yelp, TripAdvisor, Facebook).

  • Ask other local businesses to link to your website (but only if they are reputable, their website is of a high quality, and the link is relevant to your business - e.g. if you own a hair salon, a link from a grocery store may not benefit you, but a link from a wedding dress shop might if they're encouraging people to visit your salon for a haircut before the big day).

4. Use Google Search Console to stay on top of potential issues.

One final piece of advice (and this applies even if you're not interested in the mobile SERPs): add all versions of your website to Google Search Console and check the dashboard frequently to ensure that everything is as it should be and nothing is going wrong on your site. Of particularly relevance to today's topic is the Mobile Usability report, which can be found under Search Traffic on the left-hand side of the console.

Mobile Usability

This blog post highlights a few other reports that it's important to check regularly once you've added your site on Search Console.

* * *

If you want to ensure that your website is mobile-friendly and fully-optimised for this upcoming Google change, Designer Websites can help! Click here to request a quote, or select one of the following services to find out more about what we can do for you:
With 85% of mobile search results now meeting Google's mobile-friendly criteria, the search giant has found a new battle to fight...

Intrusive Pop-Ups

Don't you hate it when you're reading an article on your smartphone and you're ambushed by an unexpected pop-up that takes up the entire screen? Well, it looks like the people at Google agree with you, because they've pledged to punish sites that use this technique by diminishing their mobile search rankings. This blog post (published last week on the Google Webmaster Central Blog) makes the following promise:

"To improve the mobile search experience, after January 10, 2017, pages where content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results may not rank as highly."

The announcement feels like the start of a new chapter in Google's ongoing endeavour to give users the best possible online experience. You may remember 'Mobilegeddon', that day in April 2015 when Google changed its mobile search algorithm to favour pages with a mobile-friendly design; some time before that, in November 2014, they introduced the 'Mobile-friendly' label, which sat alongside mobile-friendly websites in the SERPs and helped users to identify at a glance which results would function well on their smartphones.

Example of Mobile Friendly Label
Image from Search Engine Land

Interestingly, Google has now retired the 'Mobile-friendly' label, stating that "85% of all pages in the mobile search results now meet this criteria and show the mobile-friendly label". Since the majority of mobile results are now mobile-friendly (probably thanks in part to the 'Mobilegeddon' algorithm change), the 'Mobile-friendly' labels were starting to make things look cluttered, so Google has gotten rid of them. In doing so, the Big G has effectively declared this particular battle won: most of the pages listed in the search engine's mobile results are now mobile-friendly (i.e. you can read and use them on a smartphone without having to zoom in), so it's time to pack up and move on to the next fight.

And the next fight for Google is against pop-ups, or "intrusive interstitials" as the new blog post calls them. Pop-up windows tend to be pretty annoying no matter what device you're using, but they're particularly problematic for mobile users, especially when they fill the whole screen and effectively blockade the user from accessing the desired content. Even so, a lot of websites - including some of the largest, most well-respected media outlets around - use irritating interstitials for all kinds of different purposes, including:
  • Encouraging people to sign up to a mailing list
  • Telling users to install an app
  • Advertising
If your website uses pop-ups for any of these purposes, you may want to revise your strategy before the 10th of January, 2017. From that date onwards, Google will be penalising sites that use intrusive interstitials, meaning that your pages may stop showing in Google search results on mobile devices - and with mobile's share of total internet use increasing all the time, that's a loss that you probably don't want to suffer!

What kind of pop-ups will trigger a penalty?

Interstitials are used in many different ways throughout the Internet. Fortunately, Google has given us a pretty solid idea of which ones they're out to get and which ones will be allowed to slip through this new penalty's net. Here are a few examples...

Scenario #1: Sign Up Now!

Let's say you have a website featuring a variety of articles about all the latest movies and TV shows. When somebody reads one of your pieces, they can view everything above the fold without interruption, but as soon as they scroll down, surprise! A pop-up window appears containing a message like this:

SIGN UP NOW!
Join our mailing list and you'll never miss the latest news and insights from our team of talented writers.

Enter your email here...

Don't worry, we'll never send you any spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

The frustrated user now has to tap on the little 'x' in the corner of your sign-up form in order to carry on reading. It's highly likely that sites using this sort of tactic will be penalised under Google's new rules, so if you're currently using pop-up forms like the example above, you should strongly consider changing tack before the 10th of January.

(To be honest, this isn't a great way to encourage people to join your mailing list anyway, as it disrupts their experience of your site and possibly sours them on your brand as a whole. You'll make your users happier - and probably get more sign-ups in the long run - if you take a different route, e.g. placing a call to action at the end of each article rather than covering up the article itself.)

Scenario #2: Try the App!

Let's now imagine that your film and TV website has a mobile app that makes it easier for smartphone users to navigate and consume your content. You know that your website, while mobile-friendly, isn't as good as your app when it comes to giving smartphone users a good online experience, and so whenever a mobile user arrives on your main site, you show them this pop-up:

BROWSING ON YOUR SMARTPHONE? RIGHT THIS WAY!
Our app makes it easy to keep up with everything we post.

Download from the App Store >
Download from Google Play >

You might think that you're doing your readers a favour here by directing them to a more user-friendly platform, but in reality, most people will just be annoyed that you've put a great big pop-up in the way of the article they wanted to read. Sites that do this probably will be penalised in Google's mobile rankings unless they cut it out by the 10th of January.

Bear in mind that Google's goal is to satisfy each query as quickly and as smoothly as possible. If they send someone to your website, it's because the algorithm thinks you have the information or the content that person wanted; if you put up barriers between the users and that content, there's a good chance that Google - eager to achieve total user satisfaction - will send people somewhere else instead.

Scenario #3: How Old Are You?

Finally, let's look at an example of an interstitial that most likely won't result in a penalty come January 2017.

Imagine you own an ecommerce website that sells wines and spirits online. Because alcoholic drinks are an age-restricted product, you are required by law to ask each user to verify their age before admitting them to your website's content. One easy way to do this? A non-dismissable pop-up that appears as soon as someone lands on your site for the first time and prompts them to enter their date of birth.

PLEASE ENTER YOUR DATE OF BIRTH

DD MM YYYY
Click to select country...

To view this website, you must be over the legal drinking age in the country where you live.

Since this interstitial is in place to fulfil a legal requirement, your website should be spared when Google cracks down on intrusive interstitials in January. Another example of a legally mandated pop-up would be a notice explaining that your website uses cookies.

Google are also saying that they'll let you off if your pop-ups "use a reasonable amount of screen space". This suggests that site owners will still be able to get away with using pop-up banners as long as they don't cover too much of the content being viewed. An example would be a small banner that appears at the top or bottom of the screen prompting users to click a link or download an app.

Download the Google app
In fact, Google use this approach themselves!

Worried that your rankings will be affected by the forthcoming Google penalty? Anxious to remove the pop-ups from your website before they cause any problems? Get in touch with Designer Websites today - call 01446 339050 or click here to request a quote for a new, Google-friendly website design.
M-Commerce Tips

You probably knew this already, but a lot of people use smartphones to browse the Internet nowadays. The total number of mobile web users is almost constantly increasing, and if you have a website, you may well have noticed that more and more of your traffic is coming from mobile devices.

We'll use ourselves as an example. In April 2012, less than 5% of Designer Websites' total site traffic came from mobile devices. By April 2015, that number was up to 12%. Our total site traffic for April of this year was 32% mobile, meaning that roughly 1 in 3 people who visited www.designer-websites.co.uk this April did so using a mobile device such as a smartphone.

Mobile Usage Graph

Bear in mind that our website is primarily targeted at business owners, most of whom are probably sitting at their desks when they discover us; the spike in mobile use becomes even more pronounced when you look at a more consumer-focused website. Here's what that graph looks like when we take the data from www.gadgetinspector.co.uk, an ecommerce (shopping) website that specialises in gadgets and gifts:

Gadget Inspector - Mobile Usage
Thanks to the Gadget Inspector team for giving us permission to share this data.

Make no bones about it: mobile users are a segment of the market that you can't afford to ignore, especially if you have an ecommerce website. According to pymnts.com, over 18 million consumers in the UK alone are estimated to shop using a mobile device on a regular basis (that's 6 times the entire population of Wales!) and this is an audience whose commerce you may be missing out on if your website isn't offering mobile users a good online experience.

So how can I capitalise on the mobile revolution?

If you're ready to enter the m-commerce market and meet the needs of those 18 million mobile shoppers, there are a few important things you'll want to focus on. Here are our recommendations for ecommerce site owners who want to encourage mobile users to buy from them:

Get a responsive website.

The first and most crucial consideration for any budding m-commerce giant is developing a website that looks good and functions well on mobile devices. There are several different ways to approach this challenge, but we recommend using responsive web design techniques to ensure that your site can adapt smoothly to any screen size. A well-made responsive website will deliver a superb user experience across all devices, from PCs and laptops to smartphones and tablets, and it will save you from having to redirect mobile users to a mobile version of your site (e.g. m.example.com) that's separate from - and potentially inconsistent with - the site you're showing desktop users.

Creating an app specifically for mobile users may be a viable alternative to creating a responsive website, but while many businesses choose to explore the app option, this tactic does come with a number of drawbacks. For one thing, forcing mobile users to download an app may put some of them off, as downloading an app (even if it's free of charge) constitutes an extra commitment to your business that many consumers may not be willing to make. It makes sense for an ecommerce Goliath like Amazon to offer an app, as they have many committed customers who will enjoy having that extra convenience, but if your primary goal here is to entice new customers to your business then you're better off letting them discover and access your services via their phones' web browsers instead.

It's also worth noting that, according to searchenginewatch.com, mobile users make more purchases via browsers than via apps anyway. For these and other reasons, we would always recommend creating a responsive website for your business instead of targeting mobile customers with an app, at least in the first instance. The time to start thinking about apps is when you've already got a large base of customers who use their phones to access your business - at that point, perhaps they'll be happy to make that extra commitment in exchange for the added ease of an app.

Keep loading times to a bare minimum.

Nobody likes waiting an eternity for a webpage to load, but long loading times are particularly toxic when your users are on the go. Smartphone users want their content right away, and if you take too long to deliver it, a sizeable chunk of your traffic will bounce back to the search results and end up on a competitor's website instead. This infographic from KISSmetrics contains lots of interesting stats about load times and how they affect user engagement, but perhaps the most compelling titbit is this one:

"A 1-second delay in page response can result in a 7% reduction in conversions. If your ecommerce site is making $100,000 per day, a 1 second page delay could potentially cost you $2.5 million in lost sales every year."

Every second counts in the world of m-commerce, so make use of tools like Google's PageSpeed Insights to ensure that nothing is slowing your website down.

Make the payment process as simple as possible.

Once the user has finished browsing your website and filling their basket with all of your amazing products, you need to make it as easy as possible for them to complete the checkout process and finalise their order. Remember, convenience is key in the mobile market, and just as people won't want to wait ages for your site to finish loading, they might not have the time or the patience to register for an account and fill out loads of little boxes in order to finalise what may have been a spur-of-the-moment purchase in the first place.

So how can you make the last part of the purchasing process quick and painless for your site's users? The key here is payment integration; for example, many people have PayPal accounts, so if you can offer PayPal as one of your payment options you'll potentially save a lot of customers a lot of hassle.

If you allow (or indeed force) users to create an account with your business when they place an order, you may want to review that system before you attempt to conquer the mobile market. The idea with this sort of thing is usually to make life easier for repeat customers; by creating an account, these people are saved from having to enter their payment and delivery details anew each time they buy from you. Registering for an account is inconvenient in the short term because you have to fill out even more boxes, but it's more convenient in the long term because it means that future orders can be completed by simply entering a set of login details.

But here's the thing: the majority of mobile users probably aren't interested in that long-term convenience. They're not planning ahead, thinking of the precious seconds they'll save later if they take the time to register now - they just want to finish what they're doing as quickly as possible and get back to scrolling through Twitter. With this in mind, you may decide that it's better to scrap the 'Create an Account' step altogether, or at least offer an 'Express Checkout' option for users who aren't interested in registering.

HenStuff Checkout Page

Here's an example from the checkout page of www.henstuff.co.uk, an ecommerce website specialising in hen night accessories and party supplies. Registered users simply enter their login details; new customers can either create a new account ('Register Now') or checkout without creating an account ('Express Checkout').

Review and improve!

Websites are often very different  when it comes to how users interact with them, and so it's unlikely that you'll nail the mobile shopping experience right away. That's OK, though - you just need to keep an eye on how people are interacting with your website and make ongoing improvements as necessary. Tools like Google Analytics are great for reviewing mobile use of your website and identifying areas that need work; for example, if a particular landing page has an abnormally high bounce rate on mobile devices specifically, you may want to reassess that page's design and alter it to ensure that your mobile users are getting the same great experience as your desktop visitors.

Need some help with your m-commerce efforts? The Designer Websites team are here to help! Here are some of the services we can provide:

Mobile-friendly site copy

Last month, Google issued an ultimatum to webmasters the world over: make your websites mobile-friendly before April 21, 2015, or we'll stop showing you in our mobile search results. You can read the official announcement on Google's blog; search experts have nicknamed the promised algorithm change "the mobile SEO-pocalypse", and with that mid-April deadline now less than a month away, innumerable business owners are scrambling to make their sites look good on smaller screens so as to avoid losing their Google traffic.

Now, we're not here today to give you responsive design hints - the internet is already packed with articles explaining how to make your website 'mobile-friendly', and if you want our help, you can request a quotation here. However, we have noticed one potential issue that few others seem to pick up on, and it concerns your website's text.

You see, when web designers create a new design for an old website, they will often just copy and paste the old site's copy into the new design. This approach can create some problems for the end user, even if the information within the text is up-to-date. Here's a fictional example:

  • Alice is an interior designer who owns her own business. She has a brochure website - let's call it aliceinteriors.com - that she uses to drive enquiries. Would-be customers fill in a contact form on the website, and Alice calls them up to discuss their requirements, quote prices, and so forth.

  • Alice has heard about Google's upcoming algorithm change, and she wants to make her website mobile-friendly before April 21 to make sure she doesn't lose any business. She hires a local web design company to create a new responsive design and optimise the site for mobile users.

  • A responsive website is effectively several different website designs in one, and aliceinteriors.com will now look different depending on whether Alice views it on a PC or on a smartphone. For instance, the site menu will likely be represented by the ubiquitous hamburger icon on smaller screens, and certain elements of each page may appear in different positions across different devices.

  • While looking at the mobile version of her website, Alice notices an issue: the text on her homepage tells users to "Fill in the form on the right", but in the mobile view, Alice's all-important enquiry form is placed directly below the text in question.

This imagined scenario is just one example. Broadly speaking, any written reference to site layout ("Click on the link below", "Select an option from the menu above", etc.) becomes problematic - if not outright misleading - when placed within a responsive design. Unless you and your web designer can find a way to ensure that certain items remain static across all views, it may be better to remove any such phrases entirely and find other ways to draw attention to your website's key elements.

Either way, there's an important lesson to be learned here: when optimising your website for mobile users, be sure to read through your site's text in each different view to make sure that you aren't confusing people with smartphones!

Mobile Ecommerce

More and more people are using smartphones - instead of desktop computers - to browse the web, and as mobile internet usage increases, so too does the amount of money spent online via mobile. In fact, shopping is one of the most common things that people do with their phones nowadays; this Econsultancy report suggests that 24% of mobile internet users have made purchases using their phones, and since that figure was just 20% back in 2013, it's probably safe to assume that smartphone shopping will continue to get more and more popular as time goes by.

If you have an ecommerce website, these statistics are not to be ignored. You have probably already noticed a swing towards mobile traffic on your site, and all the facts suggest that this trend is going to continue, so it's very much in your best interests to take a good look at your site and ask yourself how well-optimised it is for smartphone users.

If you want to turn your mobile visitors into mobile customers, here are three tips for giving them a better experience and boosting your mobile conversions:

It's a small screen - don't clutter it up!

The most obvious difference between mobile phones and desktop PCs is the screen size. When you're thinking about how your website should look on a mobile phone, be sure to make the most important elements instantly and clearly visible - this may mean stripping back the less essential parts of each page (such as promotional banners and unnecessary text) so as to fit everything in without making it hard to read. If users are having to scroll back and forth and squint at their screens just to find what they're looking for, there's a pretty strong chance that they'll give up before they reach the checkout.

Speed is everything!

This mantra doesn't just apply to loading times (although these are obviously critical on any device); it also applies to the user's journey through your site. Bear in mind that mobile users often have limited time to spend on your site, particularly if they're on a train or in the loo (you may laugh - 75% of people admit to doing it!)

If you want users to be able to fit a transaction into this short window of time, you need to make the whole process as quick as possible. If your site doesn't already use PayPal, consider adding it, as this will save a lot of users from having to painstakingly enter their payment details. An 'express checkout' option can also help - is it really worth forcing new users to register for an account before purchasing? Some will do it, but many will simply go elsewhere.

More generally, it's a good idea to go through each step of your site's buying journey and note down any steps that could be streamlined or removed - remember, each step is another opportunity for your customer to change their mind and leave the site!

Keep payment simple

We've already mentioned PayPal, but that's not the only way to make payment that little bit less painful for your customers. Another important difference between smartphones and PCs is the lack of a mouse or keyboard, and this can make entering one's details on a mobile extremely fiddly. Make sure that the data entry boxes (card number, customer name, etc.) are of an easily-clickable size, and try not to include too many of them (do you really need their address, their telephone number AND their email address?)

Some more quick tips for the checkout page:

  • Instead of forcing everyone to enter their addresses manually, use an address lookup system that allows users to enter a postcode and select the correct address from a drop-down list. This cuts down on the amount of typing required to complete a purchase.

  • Make your delivery options as clear as possible. If, at a glance, people don't know a) how soon their items will arrive and b) how much it will cost, they'll be reluctant to go through with the purchase.

  • Are there boxes to tick? If users have to tick a 'Terms and Conditions' box at the checkout, make sure it's nice and big - that way, they won't miss it, and it'll be easy to click on!

 Want to make your site more mobile-friendly? Why not consider upgrading to a responsive design?

Responsive Website Design Examples

There was a time when people could only access the internet on a PC, but those days are well and truly in the past. Here in 2014, the humble desktop computer is just one of many, many different ways in which we can get online, and your customers are now just as likely to see your website on a mobile phone as on a proper computer.

This could well be a problem for you. Just because your company's website looks great and functions perfectly on a PC doesn't mean that it will work just as well on a smartphone; in fact, if the site wasn't made with mobile devices in mind, there's a very strong chance that it will be next to unusable. Smartphone usage is going up every day, so simply ignoring your mobile traffic won't be a viable option for long - you'll either have to find a way to give those visitors a good user experience, or face the fact that you're going to lose them to a competitor who was prepared to make that extra effort.

Once you've decided to make the leap to mobile, there's another big decision to make: do you create an app for your business, or plump for a responsive website that will look good on screens of any size? This is a hotly-debated topic, and we at Designer Websites couldn't resist throwing in our 2p. Here are some pros and cons:

 

Mobile App

Pros:

  • Stays with the user, remaining on their device after download
  • Designed specifically for mobile - no need to change the desktop version of your site
  • Can incorporate 'push notifications' to keep the user coming back

Cons:

  • Download required (demands more commitment from the user)
  • May be hard to find in the App Store (what does your business share its name with?)
  • Your website will still look poor on mobile devices
  • No search engine presence

 

Responsive Website

Pros:

  • Attractive, user-friendly, and consistent across all devices
  • SEO-friendly (your business is more likely to appear in search results)
  • No download or commitment required from user (unlike apps)

Cons:

  • Less permanent than an app - doesn't stay with the user
  • Requires a redesign of your current site

 

So which is the right choice? To be honest, it depends on your business and what you're trying to achieve. For our part, though, we'd always recommend a responsive site over an app, simply because it ensures that all users are seeing the same information and getting a consistent user experience. Click here to learn more about responsive design, or click here to get a quote for a responsive site of your own.