Mar 06

An In-Depth Look At Mobile-Web Usability

We now live in an era that is based on mobile devices. We were using laptops and desktops to browse the web about a decade ago. The situation has changed now, especially after Apple invented the iPhone. An increasing number of people are gradually switching to the mobile web. According to (Smith, 2015), by October 2015, 61% of the time that Australians had been engaging with the web was through either smartphones or tablets.

Total time monthly August 2015

Browsing the web on mobile devices has become a trend. An increasing number of organisations are trying to optimise their mobile websites as a consequence. They have also invested largely in them. Because a poor quality mobile website may lead to a loss of existing and potential customers.

What is Mobile Web Usability?

The mobile web usability is the extent up to which a mobile website is usable. It is the user-friendliness or the ease of use of a site. The majority of web developers were not concerned about it due to insignificant mobile traffic.The backbone of mobile friendly sites are Media Queries in CSS. It became a recommended standard of the World Wide Web Consortium in mid-2012. Yet, most of the websites still do not have mobile versions. It is possible to view almost any website on a mobile device. However, most web users demand mobile-friendly versions due to their ease-of-use. Mobile web usability has consequently become an indispensable aspect of modern web development and SEO.

How Do You Check If Your Website Has Good Usability?

There are several methods with which you can verify if your mobile website is as user-friendly. Following is a list of such methods (Google Developers, n.d.):

1. Decreasing the count of user interactions needed
2. Prioritising and highlighting the most important functions
3. Using the “Responsive Web Design(RWD) approach” to have fluid layout
4. Maintaining the maximum speed on all versions of the website.
5. Making sure that all the versions of the website comply with webmaster guidelines

What Tools are Available to Check the Usability of Your Mobile Website?

Google PageSpeed Insights

The loading speed of a website is utterly important. Most of us feel reluctant to tolerate slow sites, especially on our mobile devices. So, premier search engines like Google have introduced tools to check performances of mobile websites. Google PageSpeed Insights or Mobile-Friendly Test is one such extremely useful tool that is readily available for you. It tests your mobile website against a list of User Experience(UX) factors and provides a report at the end(Google Developers, n.d.). Following is an example of what you might see at the end of a test conducted using this tool.

Mobile-Friendly check

Above example uses our own website ( https://www.weboptimizers.com.au ). It is important that you too obtain a similar result. Your minimum expectation should be to not obtain any “Should Fix” results. Because it indicates that your mobile website contains some critical UX issues.

Google Webmaster Tools

There is little use of a site that cannot be easily found on the internet. So, you should make sure that your website follows proper webmaster guidelines. It has become the norm to use Google’s webmaster guidelines and tools as it is the most widely used search engine to date. Google Webmaster Tools is composed of all the essentials to keep an overall track of your site. There are also certain tools that are specifically designed to improve the user experience of your mobile website.

The ‘Smartphone’ tab on Crawl Errors section is one of them. It gives you a broad view of all the errors detected by Google’s automated programs. Most of them tend to be about broken links; non-existing pages that your site may contain or Internal Server Errors. They pose major threats to your site’s overall user experience. According to (Rowe, 2016), it has been proven that they of the factors by which most web users are immensely frustrated. It is also a known fact that hurts your site’s search engine ranking.

On the 21st of April, 2015, Google released a major announcement claiming that the mobile-friendliness would affect the overall ranking of any given site (Makino, Jung & Phan, 2015). They also added an important webmaster tool called the ‘Mobile Usability Report’ as a consequence. It can be found under its ‘Search Traffic’ section in your Google Webmaster Dashboard. It provides an overall report containing all the mobile web usability issues detected by Google’s automated programs. If no issues had been identified, a small green tick would appear instead of the report. It is the ideal result you should expect to see for your website. Following is a screenshot of the Mobile Usability Report section of a site with no identified issues.

Google search console mobile usability

Google Chrome Inspector

Google chrome inspector

Another important tool is the ‘Device Mode’ that is integrated into the ‘Inspector’ tool in your Google Chrome browser. You can use it to test how your website will look on a variety of devices, including smartphones and tablets.

User Experience Tests

What the real life users think of your site is the most important mobile web usability factor. User Experience Tests helps you get a deep insight into it. It was extremely troublesome to conduct User Experience Tests in the past, majorly due to the difficulty of searching volunteers to test. However, in the present, there is an abundance of online service providers who let you perform such tests through their web interfaces with actual users.

Consequences of Not Going Mobile

There is a lot to gain from increasing the usability of your website. But can you harm your website by not doing so?

A common misconception among website owners is that there is no actual harm in not making their sites mobile-friendly. According to Google’s latest defined algorithms rules, websites can get penalised for not being mobile-friendly. You will not incur any direct monetary penalties. Instead, your website’s ranking will be lowered. According to (Kloboves, 2016), Google has taken such actions to establish equality on the web. It ensures that all the web users will be served with the best possible content regardless of the devices they are using.

Bing has also taken a similar approach to ensure the quality content on the internet. According to (Jayasankar, 2015), Bing has also started to penalise non-mobile-friendly websites by lowering their rankings. The only noticeable difference in their approach and Google’s is that they do not intend to penalise sites that are highly relevant to given search queries. You could face many consequences by not making your mobile website usable. It could hurt your website ranking and drive your customers away from your business.

Conclusion

More and more people are using mobile devices to interact with the web regardless of their geographical location. Having a quality mobile website has become more crucial than ever. The absence of which could result in poor search engine ranking, low user satisfaction and ultimately in a loss of a large portion of potential customers. Thus, always make sure to test your site using the above mentioned as a guide and try to provide your users with the best experience possible.

References

https://www.w3.org/standards/history/css3-mediaqueries
https://developers.google.com/webmasters/mobile-sites/get-started#hire-developer
https://webmasters.googleblog.com/2015/02/finding-more-mobile-friendly-search.html
http://www.nielsen.com/au/en/insights/news/2015/mobile-mania-australians-spend-on-average-more-than-an-hour-a-day-on-their-smartphones.html
https://webmasters.googleblog.com/2016/03/continuing-to-make-web-more-mobile.html

About The Author

Ajay Chavda is the co-founder of Weboptimizers, an SEO agency in Melbourne and has been involved with SEO for over 15 years. Between the digital properties and security forums he has managed, his articles have been read by approximately 50 million unique visitors.

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