Last updated on June 17th, 2022 at 03:09 pm
If you use Google’s Search Console or Google Analytics, you might have seen a notification that your website is being indexed using ‘mobile-first indexing’. But what exactly is mobile-first, and why does it matter? In this post I’ll be looking into what Google really means by ‘mobile-first’ and how you can build a responsive WordPress website that meets Google’s requirements.
In a single day, an average adult spends (on average) between 4 and 7 hours online on their phone. Do the math and that adds up to… a lot of hours per month. (Between 120 and 210 hours per month, in fact!)
If those figures don’t make you realize why it’s vital that your website is optimized for mobile devices (or ‘responsive’), then consider the impact it could have on your business if your visitors have to zoom in and out to read your website (spoiler alert, they’re going to bounce straight back to Google search to find a competitor who has a more responsive WordPress website. )
But, in case you’re still on the fence, let’s look at some more detailed reasons why responsiveness is so crucial in the 2020s.
Top Reasons Why You Need a Mobile-First Website
Google Advocate ‘Mobile First’
In 2018, Google announced that they would be using a ‘mobile-first’ algorithm that prioritizes mobile-optimized websites in search result rankings. That means that if your site isn’t responsive and easy to use on a smartphone or tablet, you’re going to lose ranking. Maybe not right away, but can your business really afford to take that kind of risk?
If you’re thinking that you’re creating your website for your customers, not for Google, then I kind of agree with you. I don’t like to think that I’m just creating content for Google’s benefit – but the sad fact is that if you want to get visitors to your website, you are beholden to the Google algorithm gods. Like it or not, you need a responsive WordPress website to rank well in SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages) and drive traffic to your website.
Your Visitors Will Have A Better Experience on a Responsive WordPress Website
Statistics suggest that when a website isn’t optimized for mobile devices, a massive 61% of people will click away quickly. What’s more, up to 40% of people will look to your competitors instead. That means that if your site isn’t responsive and mobile-optimized, you’re going to be driving customers to your competitors.
Think about your own browsing experience. Don’t you find it frustrating when a website is too small to read when you’re browsing on your smartphone? Sure screen sizes are getting bigger, but that’s no excuse not to ensure your website is responsive and mobile-friendly.
Responsive WordPress Websites Get more Sales
Your business exists to meet your customers’ needs – and since a lot of your customers will be smartphone users, you need a mobile responsive site. Fail to provide a site that your customers can browse on their phones, and you’re failing to meet their needs. Fail to meet their needs and they’ll look for someone who will. 62% of small businesses that redesign their websites to make them responsive see an increase in sales as a result.
If you tell me that you don’t want to see an increase in your sales, well, frankly, I just won’t believe you!
60% of Users won’t Trust a Company if Their Website isn’t Mobile Friendly
If you want to build your reputation (and boost your sales) then you need to gain your visitors’ trust. A poorly-designed website or a website that isn’t responsive and easy to use on mobile devices is one of the top reasons why users either won’t trust the company or won’t recommend it. A website that isn’t responsive can give off the impression that it’s not been updated in a long time or can even suggest to your visitors that you’re no longer trading. People are so used to using responsive WordPress websites that a non-responsive website or one that doesn’t work as well on mobile devices as it does on desktops is immediately off-putting.
Over 16% of Internet users in the United States only use Mobile devices to go Online
With experts estimating that 16.8 billion mobile devices will be in use by the end of 2023, it’s not wholly surprising that a significant percentage of Americans say that they only ever use a smartphone or tablet to go online. That number is set to increase to around 20% over the next few years. If you’re only designing your website for desktop users, then you’re risking losing a significant percentage of your potential audience.
Responsive and Effective – Mobile-First Matters
In March 2018, Google announced that they would be prioritizing the indexing of mobile versions of web pages rather than desktop versions. What’s more, effectively optimized sites would rank higher in search results. The announcement doesn’t mean that if your site isn’t mobile-friendly, it won’t be indexed, but Google is ‘encouraging webmasters to make their content mobile-friendly’.
From July 2018 onwards, slow-loading content, for example, has been demoted in search results – not just for mobile searchers, but for desktop searches, too. That means that if you don’t have a mobile responsive website, you’re going to lose traffic. To check how mobile-friendly Google consider your site to be, you can use the Google mobile friendliness test. If your site fails the test, then you need to take urgent action!
10 Top Tips for Mobile Responsive Websites
Now that we’ve covered all the reasons why you need to ensure your website is optimized to Google’s mobile-first recommendations, let’s look at the how. We’ve pulled together our top ten tips for building a mobile-first website for your business.
1) Content Considerations
Although smartphone screens are getting bigger every year, they’re still relatively small, and you need to take that into consideration. When it comes to text on your pages, it’s important to make sure that it’s readable, not overcrowded, and conveys your message effectively. There’s nothing worse than a website that makes your eyes hurt when you’re viewing it on a mobile screen.
Content matters in terms of your website, and even more so for mobile-first responsiveness. When planning your content, make every word count and create the greatest possible impact. Cut the fluff. You can still write informative content, just keep it to the point!
2) Layout Logistics for Responsive WordPress Websites
Simple, clean, and easy to navigate websites perform best in terms of mobile responsiveness, and they make life easier for your users. More and more websites are adopting more minimalistic designs rather than employing all kinds of bells and whistles.
That’s partly because minimalistic layouts are easier to view on a mobile device, but mostly because minimalism leads to blazing-fast loading speeds. Since visitors expect your site to load in a couple of seconds, ditching the features that lead to lag is a big bonus. If your site takes more than a few seconds to load, users won’t wait around – they’ll head somewhere else pretty quickly.
3) Device Decisions
While there are a lot of different devices on the market, a lot of people make the mistake of optimizing their websites for the device their most familiar with. Don’t risk alienating a large proportion of your potential users by, for example, focusing on optimizing for the safari browser on Apple devices. Make sure that your website is mobile responsive for all devices and all browsers.
To make this easy, there are mobile emulators that are available to test how your site looks and loads on a variety of devices. Ensure that you take advantage of this when you’re making your site more responsive and optimized. You’re even able to preview how your website looks on different devices in WordPress using the Preview function in the top right in the Gutenberg editor.
4) Thumb Thinking – Tips for user-friendly responsive WordPRess websites
Since mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets almost always have touch screens, it’s essential that your users can click buttons, browse your content and use navigation menus easily. Thumb thinking means that you look at your site from the perspective of the people who have to use their thumbs to click the buttons and navigate content.
It can help to think of your own experience of mobile browsing. How do you feel about browsing websites on your smartphone that force you to scroll and zoom in order to click buttons or navigate? It’s an annoying experience for most people – so ensure that you avoid making those kinds of mistakes with your site.
5) Icon Insights
One really cool feature that users seem to love on responsive websites is icons that replace text. There are a lot of awesome options for doing this. You can use icons for your social media profile links, for example, and for call to actions such as ‘call us’ – a phone icon – and ‘email us’ – an email icon.
Since icons reduce the amount of text and make sites less cluttered, they increase the ease of use for mobile users. You don’t have to stop there, either. Get creative with your use of icons to make for a user experience that really stands out and makes your brand memorable.
6) Contact Clarity
For a majority of mobile browsers, being able to find crucial information easily is essential. The most important information that your customers are likely to want to find is your contact details. Your phone number, email address, or a physical address should be clearly visible on every page.
Your goal in creating a mobile responsive website is to reduce the amount of scrolling and navigating that your customers have to do in order to find the information they need. Additionally, prominent contact details can increase your customers’ trust in your site, and increase conversions, too.
7) Link Latitude
It is often impossible to optimize every part of your website for mobile devices. There may be content that performs great for desktop conversions but just isn’t practical for your mobile-optimized site. Whilst you need to exclude that content from your mobile site, you don’t have to dispose of it entirely.
Instead, provide a link to the ‘full version’ of your website so that mobile users have the latitude to visit the content that’s not mobile optimized. This method offers the best of both worlds – giving access to extra content without slowing down or complicating your mobile site.
8) Branding Beautifully
One of the most important things you need to remember when crafting a mobile responsive version of your website is to be consistent. Branding is important in helping your customers recognize your business as trustworthy and reliable – and consistency is something Google looks for, too. Some businesses have fallen into the trap of enabling a generic mobile-optimized version of their full website (such as offered in many WordPress themes, for example).
Whilst this is a quick and easy way of ensuring your site works well on mobile, it’s not good for your brand. Generic can be mistaken for fake, whereas consistent branding inspires trust. It’s not worth the time savings of going generic if it harms your business. Brand beautifully across mobile and desktop versions!
9) Image Inspiration
Although websites with quality images make for a great user experience, large image files slow down loading times. Any kind of high-quality media with a large file size – including videos – will impact your mobile site performance. It can be a challenge to get the balance right between creating a great user experience through vivid imagery and a lightning-fast site.
Go easy on the number of images or ensure that your mobile responsive site uses compressed versions of your images. Test the speed of your site on mobile devices and see how much of a difference fewer or smaller images makes. Using an optimization plugin to compress your images is the easiest way to do this – some WordPress hosts include these with your managed hosting plan (for example, Hostinger includes the Lightspeed Cache plugin with each installation of WordPress).
10) SEO Standards for responsive WordPress websites
As well as optimising your site in terms of content, layout, page loading, and so on, don’t forget SEO standards, too. Pay attention to the way that mobile users search for keywords or phrases, for example. Voice searches on mobile devices are on the increase, and this changes the way that keywords need to be optimised.
Local SEO can be particularly useful when it comes to mobile optimization if you have a local service that your customers might be searching for. Do your research into how your users are searching and you can capitalize on a huge opportunity for growth.
Final Thoughts on Why You Need a Responsive WordPress Website
Responsive web design has been around for quite a while now, but with mobile browsing soaring, it’s becoming more and more important. As Google puts more emphasis on mobile-first indexing, not having a responsive WordPress website can reduce the amount of traffic arriving at your website in the first place, not to mention the large percentage of users who will click straight away from your website if they think it’s not mobile-friendly.
It’s crucial that you don’t get left behind in the move toward mobile responsive site design. The good news is that there are a lot of tools available to help you ensure that your site performs well on mobile devices. Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) are becoming more common, for example, meaning that there’s no excuse for not having a mobile responsive website for your business, and web hosting packages for small businesses (such as WP Engine, for example) often come with themes that are responsive out-of-the-box so you can focus on your content.