For years, Google and Facebook have been preparing for a mobile-first world, and now it’s here: Google recently said that it's likely mobile searches may exceed desktop queries by the end of the year, and Facebook’s stock recently hit an all-time high when the company reported that 62 percent of its total revenue came from mobile ads.
How can you help your small business thrive in a mobile-first world? And how can you take advantage of the social and search benefits available via Google and Facebook? Let's take a look.
One URL to Rule Them All
There are currently three different technology solutions available to create mobile versions of your website:
- A separate mobile-specific site. This offers a completely separate mobile site to the user, typically m.yoursite.com or www.yoursite.com/m.
- Dynamically served websites. This option provides the same URL for mobile and desktop, but the Web server decides whether to show the desktop or mobile-optimized version by detecting the user’s screen and device.
- Fully responsive websites. Like dynamically served websites, this is a responsive website that also serves the same URL and code to the user, but it does this on the client side via CSS (cascading style sheets).
Fundamentally, it’s critical that your site have the exact same URL regardless of whether a user sees it on a mobile device, tablet or desktop. Your website will gain trust and authority by being shared—whether that’s through Facebook’s newsfeed or a link on another site that Google’s crawler finds. With a consistent URL structure, you ensure that Google’s link graph and Facebook’s social graph are populated with the same URLs, maximizing your site’s search and social reputation, rather than splitting page authority between two different addresses serving the same content.
Although dynamically served and fully responsive websites provide the same URL to mobile and desktop devices, there's an important distinction: Fully responsive sites are faster. So if you have to choose one, choose a fully responsive website design. Google has publicly advocated responsive design as the technical solution that it favors. Sites that use responsive website design are those that serve all devices on the same set of URLs, with each URL serving the same HTML to all devices using just CSS to change how the pages are rendered.
The Need for Speed
Bounce rates increase when sites don’t load quickly, and high bounce rates have a negative impact on user experience, search rankings and social visibility. This is especially true on mobile devices, where website speeds can be impacted by factors in your control, such as site design and server speed, and also factors outside of your control, such as spotty cellular connections.
When developing your mobile site, you should target one-second-or-less page load times for your above-the-fold content. This doesn't mean the complete page needs to load in under one second. Instead, you can employ technical solutions that break up parts of your site into distinct chunks, allowing your most important content on the top of the page to load quickly and the rest to load afterwards.
For a deeper explanation on how to achieve fast mobile load times, read Pierre Far’s recommendations for decreasing page load times and Google’s dedicated section for making smartphones fast, and visit Google’s PageSpeed Insights for Developers utility to learn about additional tactics for improving load times.
The Mobile Funnel
A mobile site can be responsive and load quickly, but if it’s not built to funnel your users toward a specific end goal—whether that’s lead generation or the completion of an ecommerce transaction—it’s going to underserve your business needs. This primer by Chris Goward provides a detailed summary of mobile conversion optimization techniques.
The most important thing to consider is the placement and design of your calls to action throughout the mobile-optimized version of your site. A close second is making sure your website analytics can accurately report on mobile and desktop traffic and goal completions. Although historically speaking, mobile conversion rates are lower than desktop, you want to make sure that mobile conversions are within an acceptable range of their desktop counterparts.
We’re now living in a mobile-first world, where users are as likely to come to your website via a smartphone or tablet as they are from a desktop. There’s significant opportunity for you to gain an important edge on your competition, as many small businesses don’t yet have the know-how or resources to leverage all of the opportunity that mobile offers.
Make sure your small business’s site can take advantage of the shift to mobile by creating a website with one URL across all devices, that prioritizes loading of above-the-fold content and that emphasizes the conversion funnel with clear calls-to-action on the mobile view.
Stanley Meytin is the founder and creative director at True Film Production, a New York City-based video production company that creates videos for businesses and brands all over the world. He's also a member of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs.
Read more articles on mobile Web design.