What makes a website mobile-friendly?
on Thursday, October 15, 2020
Did you know over half of all web traffic comes from mobile devices?1 With the majority of consumers turning to their phones, instead of their laptops, to engage with brands, it stands to reason that every business needs a website that performs well on mobile. But what is it that makes a website mobile-friendly, anyway? How should a mobile site look and function, and why is it so important?
3 Reasons You Need a Mobile-Friendly Website
- Your customers are on mobile, so you should be too. Think about it: Our phones are in our hands or within arm's reach nearly 24/7. Americans check their phones 96 times a day, or once every 10 minutes,2 which explains why today's consumers have 2x more interactions with brands on mobile than anywhere else.3
- 52% of users say a bad mobile experience makes them less likely to engage with a company.4 In other words, it could cost you potential customers. Getting someone to visit your website is half the battle. Don’t give them a reason to go elsewhere simply because of a poorly designed site.
- Mobile websites rank higher in organic search results, thanks to Google’s mobile-first indexing. This is important for boosting your search engine optimization (SEO), so when customers look online for businesses like yours, you’ll be more likely to appear in the results.
What Does Mobile-Friendly Mean?
A mobile-friendly website is one that is easy to read and navigate on any mobile device, from tablets to smartphones. To make your website mobile-friendly, there are two primary approaches to consider:
- Responsive: A responsive website is dynamic, allowing the content to grow or shrink as the screen size changes.
- Adaptive: An adaptive website features multiple fixed layouts designed for various screen sizes. The pages adjust to the correct layout based on the type of device being used.
Responsive websites are more common and easier to maintain, and Google recommends them over adaptive. Talk to a web developer to learn more about the pros and cons.
A note about stand-alone mobile sites: Creating a separate website — designed exclusively for mobile and with its own dedicated URL — was once a common practice. However, this is now considered antiquated as it requires far more maintenance.
What about mobile-first? A website can be mobile-friendly but not mobile-first. Mobile-first starts with designing the website to be experienced on mobile (i.e. the smallest screen), then adjusting that design to work on larger screens, instead of the other way around.
Characteristics of a Mobile-Friendly Website
- Easy to navigate. People spend an average of 15 seconds on a web page.5 That’s not much time, so your website should make it quick and easy to find the info they need. Create a visual hierarchy, putting the most important content first. Use prominent CTAs to drive the desired actions, and keep the menu options simple. Don’t bury important content within subcategories of the navigation bar. If it takes more than three clicks to find something, it’s taking too long.
- Scannable content. Keep content short and sweet. Avoid large blocks of text and long paragraphs that are difficult to read. Use icons, images, and subheads to break up text elements and help people scan for key points. More importantly, be succinct. Getting your point across in fewer words makes your content easy to digest and keeps visitors engaged.
- Readable fonts. A mobile screen is much smaller than a desktop, so, naturally, the content should be sized accordingly so the user doesn’t have to squint or zoom in. The general rule of thumb for main body text is a minimum font size of 16 pixels,6 although you can go bigger. Bear in mind the font family, as well. A typeface that is too thin or ornate makes it challenging to read. When in doubt, use a sans-serif, web-safe font such as Arial or Verdana: They’re easier to read and they load faster, which improves your site speed.
- Designed for touch. On a computer, you click and scroll with a mouse, but on a mobile device, you tap and scroll with your fingers and thumbs. Think of trying to use your thumb to tap a teeny, tiny button on your phone. Frustrating, right? Ensuring buttons and links are large enough to tap with a finger provides a human-friendly design that’s more comfortable and efficient. Better yet, position key elements in the “thumb zone,” where the majority of interaction happens.
- Note: The thumb drives 75% of all smartphone interactions.
Fast performance. Website speed isn’t something most people think about until they encounter a slow web page. 53% of mobile sites are abandoned if pages take longer than three seconds to load.3 Let that sink in for a moment. If your website takes too long to load, you could be losing business. Avoid the dreaded “page loading” symbol by getting rid of pop-ups, sizing images properly, and maintaining a simplistic design.
PRO TIP: Find out if your website is mobile-friendly using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test, and be sure it’s accessible for people with disabilities by meeting the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.
Your website forms the foundation of your online presence and reputation. While you don’t need to become a full-fledged web developer, it is essential to understand what sets apart a good website from a bad one. And for the foreseeable future, that means being mobile-friendly.
 Perficient, “Mobile vs. Desktop Usage in 2019.”
 Asurion, 2019.
 Google Consumer Insights, 2017.
 Google, “What Users Want Most from Mobile Sites Today,” 2012.
 Chartbeat, Time Magazine, “What You Think You Know About the Web Is Wrong,” 2014.
 Smashing Magazine, “A Reference Guide for Typography In Mobile Web Design,” 2018.