What used to be a side issue is fast becoming a central element to website development and design. The issue of readability on mobile devices and tablets used to be a minor consideration. With slow data speeds and devices with poor quality screens, it wasn’t important. The huge explosion in tablets, mobile data availability and phones with high quality screens means that most of our website statistics show mobile visitors outstripping conventional desktop viewers. This week, Google acknowledged this with the announcement on their blog covering the introduction of a mobile optimisation element in Google Webmaster Tools. It seems that having a mobile responsive website is now even more important. “We strongly recommend that you take a look at these issues” is the clue you’re looking for.

Google Webmaster Tools and Responsive Web Design - take note
Google Webmaster Tools and Responsive Web Design – take note

If you’re not familiar with Webmaster Tools or the official Google Webmaster blog, they are probably the two single most important voices to listen to in website design, reader usability and search engine optimisation. Everyone else is simply making a best guess. The Google announcement on mobile responsive website design is significant. While they claim that this criteria isn’t being given any weighting in search returns, analysing the new tools will lead anyone with common sense to realise that if they aren’t yet using it as a metric, then mobile responsiveness very soon will be a big consideration in your page ranking.

We started making all of our websites fully mobile responsive more that eighteen months ago now. We did it simply because it was becoming obvious just how many visitors were on mobile devices and as more and more content is consumed by people on the move, it was apparent that mobile responsive web design was going to become vital.

If you’re not sure what ‘mobile response’ means or looks like, try loading this website on your different devices. You’ll see that it changes in several ways to optimise itself to whatever screen it’s displayed on. Now go check yours and see how it compares. You should be able to read the text without that irritating ‘pinch and zoom’ and also be able to scroll up and down the page to read, without having to slide left and right to read the complete paragraph.

As you probably saw, being mobile responsive website means that the design ‘reflows’ and optimises itself to the device and screen orientation that the reader is using at that point. This mans that header logos, menus, slideshow images and even text size all change and adapt to give your visitor the optimum experience.

UPDATE – Google have released a tool to check the friendliness of websites to mobile devices. Click the link here for the mobile responsive tool checker and then enter your website to see how it scores

If your website isn’t mobile responsive, there are two issues. Firstly, you’re making things harder for your visitors and if they’re comparing you with others when they’re sitting with an iPad and a coffee to hand, you’re not looking good. Secondly, the Google blog article is fairly typical of the subtle heads-up often given by their team in this way. If you’re not mobile responsive, don’t be surprised if you start to disappear from search results in the near future.

If you’d like to talk about this further, drop us a line using the contact form, we’d like to hear your views on the issues of mobile website visitors.