If you have any remaining doubts about the importance of optimizing your site for mobile devices, you need to vanquish them now. The world today is mobile and that trend is only increasing. However, what’s not always clear is the best route to achieving mobile success and optimization. You might have more (and better) options than you realize.
Mobile Optimization is Crucial
Almost 45% of American adults have a smartphone and 90% of them use their smartphone to go online. Tablet sales are expected to exceed 100 million this year. Plus, 61% of users will keep searching on Google if they find a site that isn’t mobile friendly.
Ignoring the huge segment of web users significantly limits your reach. We’ve all experienced a site that wasn’t designed for mobile use and the annoyance of having to zoom in repeatedly just to read what’s on the screen. You can fixate on your SEO indefinitely, but if people don’t enjoy using your site, it doesn’t matter how easy it is to find.
What Are The Options?
You agree that you need a mobile friendly site, but how you accomplish that…well, it depends. There are a few feasible options to consider, keeping in mind your goals, budget, and site content. You can create a standalone mobile site that users will be directed to from mobile devices, or you can alter your existing site to incorporate either responsive or adaptive design techniques.
Unless your company is so well known and important that you don’t have to care about SEO (here’s looking at you, Facebook), creating a separate mobile site is probably not your best option.
Turns out, Google is a huge fan of site quality. Obviously, you want to create some sort of mobile solution. Mobile users who come across a desktop version of a site are more likely to leave it, increasing your bounce rate and decreasing your site’s worth in Google’s omniscient eyes.
However, Google also hates duplicate content. By having two websites (like when you deploy a mobile site), Google will think you’re pushing out the same content on two different sites. You’ll end up sitting in the corner while other sites get all the traffic.
Responsive design is a method of coding a website in a way that lets the layout adjust fluidly to the size of the screen being used to view it. No matter the device, the server will send the same HTML and the CSS determines how it’s displayed on the screen. The same content will be sent regardless of whether the user is viewing the site on a phone, tablet, or desktop.
In certain ways, responsive sites can be really beneficial. Responsive design creates a mobile friendly viewing experience so your site can be used more easily on any device. Since there's only one site involved, you don’t have to worry about producing duplicate content, or about creating backlinks and optimizing your SEO for two different sites. You also only have to focus on one set of site analytics.
If your content is mostly text and graphics, this option should be fine. However, anything more complicated than that tends to load very slowly. This could ultimately decrease your search ranking since most users will just seek out a better site instead of waiting for your content to load.
Unlike responsive sites, which adjust to the size of a given screen, adaptive sites are built to fit various given dimensions so that they’re specifically optimized for viewing on each device. The server recognizes the type of device being used to access the site and sends separate HTML designed for that particular device.
In this case, the content can be altered so that what is viewed on a smart phone can be different than what gets sent to a tablet or what appears when you use a desktop. This type of strategy truly provides the best possible user experience.
Similar to responsive sites, worrying about only one website as far as SEO and analytics has its benefits. Adaptive sites load faster, the content is specific to the device, and the site shares server side code and deployment. Your bounce rate should decrease because of the fast load and user friendliness, which is great for your search ranking.
This is the least budget friendly option, but it’s also going to provide the best experience.
Which Solution Is Best For You?
Unfortunately, it's a complicated decision and it depends on what you think is most important for your site and users. You have to weigh the benefits of each option against your goals and, of course, your budget.
Creating a mobile specific site is going to be preferable to ignoring mobile users altogether, but it's not going to be best for your SEO. Currently, Google recommends using responsive design for SEO benefits although this doesn't necessarily factor in the slower loading speed. Adaptive design provides the best user experience and faster load time, but for very simple sites these benefits may not be worth the financial cost.
Where do you go from here? Think about the kind of content you have and the complexity of your site. If you mostly have low impact content, responsive may be the way to go. If user experience is more important than potential cost savings, or your site is a little more complex, consider looking into adaptive design.
Ultimately, the best solution will probably come from a combination of these different tools, created specifically with your site in mind. The most important thing to realize is that just because web trends like responsive design become popular does not mean they are the only or best option.
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