A lot of businesses are responding to the need to design mobile sites as Google has introduced the mobile first index. Google is changing its search indexing to reflect the needs of end users, and where most searches come from. The majority of end users search for queries on their mobiles, so the mobile first index was created.
User experience designers now have to keep up with the way that end users are using the Internet, Google search spiders previously crawled the Internet from desktop browsers and are now phasing in the use of mobile browsers in order to search and catalogue results. The mobile first index will push a lot of desktop based sites down in rank, needing a complete website redesign that includes a mobile strategy.
Mobile First Design
A lot of software packages have been designed to simultaneously create both a mobile site and a desktop site. Mobile first design is recommended to ensure that the critical elements that are essential to a business website are included in the mobile version.
Wireframes designed by the user experience designer should be made in consultation with the business owner, the web developer, the graphic artist and have the customer base in mind for the end user.
There are a number of visual features which should be included in mobile design. A separate mobile website should not be created for one business; as Google penalises websites for duplicate content. A responsive software package should therefore be used such as an extension to WordPress, or a Twitter Bootstrap package implemented to create a responsive site.
Large images, clear type and buttons that are clear, along with user friendly navigation systems, drop down menus and single column design are best for mobile. A lot of mobile sites are incredibly simple in design, but use effective colour schemes and other types of graphical elements such as button size and style in order to create an effective schema for end users.
AMP Creates a Fast Load Experience
Google has been working on a project called AMP, the Accelerated Mobile Page project, in order to create web pages for mobile devices that load significantly faster than current pages. This is to create an even more enjoyable experience for end users, and to reduce bounce rates off pages that load too slowly.
AMP is an open source project that creates websites that load instantly across multiple platforms, and uses several core components. These include AMP JS, AMP HTML and also the Google Amp Cache.
The Google Amp Cache is a repository of AMP verified URLs that are served instantly across the Internet; because they have been verified they are able to be loaded and served faster to an end user. Google AMP is an open source project which means it is accessible for any business owner or web developer to use.
Strip Down Images
Another simple method to reduce the size of the load time of an Internet mobile size is to optimise images for mobile. This means reducing the image resolution, and then coding the image to be responsive. Various software packages, including Twitter Bootstrap and WordPress have plugins that help to scale an image suitable for display on a mobile device.
When reducing image size keep in mind the following points:
- Facebook and Twitter automatically resize all images that are loaded whilst still preserving the quality of the picture, the objective for mobile sites is to do the same
- In either Photoshop or GIMP (open source image editor) scale the image down
- Select the appropriate width required (usually around 300 px for mobile to 400 px) and then the software suite will maintain the aspect ratio if you select that option
- Export the image as a different size but the same resolution
- Store the image as a .JPEG which is more efficient at compressing an image file but maintaining better quality than a .JPG file
- The quality of the image can be previewed in a screen, and this can be reduced without it having too much impact on the image visually
- Images can be optimised by reducing the size and the amount of data in them which both makes it more effective for mobile browsing whilst still retaining image quality
All images should be optimised for a mobile site due to them being a lot faster to load, and once a website is built, it should be tested across a series of different platforms in order to ensure that load times are satisfactory
Structured Data Should Be Part of A Mobile Strategy
Google’s new rich results, where structured data is pulled from markup in web pages (not viewable by the end user) that classifies page content can be pushed into enhanced displays on search engine results pages.
Rich results can be displayed as knowledge graphs, display cards, breadcrumbs or carousels of images with different types of information. Structured data is written usually in JSON-LD, a programming language that is able to be read by machines, and taken up by a search bot and pushed to Google’s enhanced displays.
Structured data includes:
- Information such as recipes, movies, company contact information, people, information about events and fast answers
- Structured data can be written not only in JSON-LD but also RDFa and Microdata
- Microdata and RDFa are extensions to HTML 5 that are being worked on as a standard by the W3C Consortium
- Resource Description Framework in Attributes is RDFa, and works in most websites and browsers, and Microdata is the addition of additional HTML tags that create a readable format for web crawlers in order for the page to be categorised
Responsive Pages and Design
Wireframing Your Design
When you draw up wireframes for a website, and designing a mobile site, draw up a one column design, taking into account what is imperative in being included in the site. A mobile site isn’t simply a stripped down version of a desktop site, but a dedicated design includes all necessary components and includes design for user-experience.
Elements to consider in a mobile site design include how it will scale up to a full desktop site, where the navigation elements are placed, what software package will be used to develop the site, and where content elements, and what type of content is going to be placed on a site.
A wireframe helps the designers, the business owner and the graphic artists envisage what the final product will be like, and how they wish the user to navigate through a site. The design process usually goes from sketch, to wireframe then to visual and then to code and deploy.
Generally a website wireframe will include a header, the content of the page, and then a footer. In a mobile site, the header menu often contains a hamburger drop down menu, and or a slide in menu from the side that can be accessed from the header. Animated menus, or drop down menus help save on visual real estate on the mobile, whilst also providing for interactive and intuitive mobile design.
Referencing Other Designs
When you are considering what elements to put into a mobile website development it is important to view other competitor’s websites to see how they have deployed their mobile sites.
Look at what they have included in their necessary elements, check their page load times. Test to see if they have structured data included in their website; and what content they have. What keywords are they using, and what types of visual elements are placed.
Do they have a menu that is a drop down hamburger menu, or do they have a slide in design with a number of options in it. Do they have location information and also an app available for their website?
What types of colour schemes have they used on their website. What loads quickly in the site, and what elements would you consider leaving in and what would you exclude.
When a business owner is considering what to include in a website, they should have some sketches of some ideas, and some references to other websites that they believe are of a good quality so that when they consult with a designer and developer, the ideal website for the business owner can be fully realised.
From the mobile designs, the desktop site can be designed. Inclusions in a website designed from a mobile first perspective will include a site map, information such as legal terms and conditions, business contact information and opening hours and also location information. For an e-commerce site likely there will be Paypal or other payment gateway (credit card) logos included, as well as links to products and blog content.
Videos for Mobile Design
Videos created to display in a mobile website should be optimised to view in a mobile device and streamed across WIFI or 3G or 4G networks. This means reducing the size of the resolution and this is a similar process in doing this as there is for optimising images.
A lot of businesses have a YouTube channel, and can either embed links to their YouTube videos within their website, or have a link to their YouTube channel from within the mobile site.
YouTube scales itself automatically in a mobile browser, however having an optimised for mobile video already created assists in pushing faster page load times and better user experience. Video helps create more effective content design and can when used well be effective as part of a mobile site.
What do you think about our tips to creating the best mobile strategy? Do you think there is anything we have missed? Let us know in the comments section below!
Kieran is the Social Media Manager and SEO Expert at SEO Shark. He is an expert in Social Media, link building, PPC and of course SEO. In his time off work Kieran enjoys reading and playing rugby, as well as following all kinds of sports! You can read some more of his articles here.