Posted On Tuesday, September 29, 2020
Author: David Armitage (Technical Director)
In the last quarter of 2016 there was a monumental shift in the way that the internet is experienced, a shift that will probably not occur again until Elon Musk finally makes it possible for us to jump into The Matrix… or maybe if VR ever gets mass adopted like in Ready Player One. It marked the moment when more web pages per day were being loaded up on mobile devices instead of the aging traditional computer. Look around on the train, at a restaurant or even in your own house and it’s certainly not hard to believe. 4 years later and it’s even more prevalent. From booking hotels, checking emails, sharing funny cat videos and looking for jobs, mobile phones (and less so, tablets) are the go to tool.
Now imagine you were looking for new job options on your commute home, clicked through to an industry agency's site and saw that they had a lovely modern logo, an up to date blog, links to all their socials and a list of recent jobs available… but you had to keep scrolling up and down, and side to side while pinch zooming in and out to read and navigate. My bet is that you would be leaving that site quickly and in a worse mood than when you entered it.
It’s not just people who don’t like mobile unfriendly websites either. When a web crawler, search engine spider or, as I like to call them, ‘Googly Bot’ visits your site to index it for search results then it will declare itself as a mobile device. Makes sense really, considering that’s how the site will probably be viewed. If it sees your website is not mobile friendly then this is definitely not going to score you any points in their books. It’s gonna lose you them in fact.
When getting a website built, you would almost certainly assume that you would be getting a mobile friendly site but this is not always the case. Some companies even have the cheek to charge extra for the designs, claiming that it is more work. And they are right, designing a website for all devices is definitely more work for both the designer and the developer.
There are two ways to approach getting a website built that looks good on every screen
This method is easier for the designer, more work for the developer and absolutely hated by Google. In this configuration the designer will come up with two independent designs and then the developer will have to go and build them both, but making sure that all the content is updated and synced for both. From blog articles to job ads.
Make sure you are getting this! Responsive design is the only real method to do it in this decade. A dedicated mobile site comes with all sorts of problems such as duplicate content, which search engines hate almost as much as they hate complex site structures which having two different designs on one site definitely adds. It can also be trickier to design a responsive website well as the designer has to consider a lot more things to make one page work well on all device than just have different designs for different devices.
A responsive website delivers the same page and all its content to the browser with instructions on how it should be shown depending on the size of the browsers window. Having one design that is able to adapt properly to any screen size delivers a massively better user experience and will have the Googly Bots leaving with a smile.
When people hear the term mobile friendly, they instantly think in terms of how it will look on their screen. Very few will actually consider how it loads, but this can be just as important, if not more, and is so rarely even considered!
Mobile devices not only differ from your standard desktop or laptop in it’s form factor but also in terms of power and how it is connected. The most beautiful website in the world that looks like it was designed solely for whatever device you happen to be viewing it on is going to be absolutely terrible for your business if it takes 45 seconds to load!
You need to look no further than a website built on your typical DIY platform like Wix or Squarespace to see evidence of this. Due to their unoptimized, and genericized code that has to be able to adapt to however your average, non-tech-savvy person drags pictures around its editor, there ends up being mountains of code just to achieve what even the most basic coder could put together in windows notepad. Start getting more technical and expect a gigantic mess! Now consider that all this code may have to travel through the air into a phone with technical specs optimized for battery life instead of performance, held by a person always complaining about the signal in their house or possibly sitting on a bus navigating the radio shadows of a city. Can you see why optimising for mobile isn’t just about design now?
Keeping your code clean will definitely help out with this. That is why you won’t see big corporate websites that run on things like Squarespace, Wix or even WordPress. Having a CMS (Content Management System) that is quick to receive the request, find the files and send it off down the wire is vital. This is why we use Umbraco CMS. It is based on Microsoft's long established and refined .NET framework which is a favourite of corporations around the world due to stability, security and customizability.
But having the cleanest, most efficient code in the world isn’t going to help you if it is being served up by a beige windows 95 box with a dial-up modem. Clearly this will probably not be the case, regardless of how little you pay, but hosting is a big factor again in the time difference between a visitor clicking a link and how quickly they see the page.
If professionalism is what you are going for, then you definitely want to make sure your website is being kept on a nippy computer that can not only serve up your site with jedi like reaction and delivery but also doesn’t buckle when it has to deal with multiple visitors at once. You want to look for either a dedicated server or a high end shared service and try to make sure that the servers are as close to your customers and clients as possible so the data doesn’t have far to travel.