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Why is Mobile Usability Important?

The need for a mobile-friendly version of your website has suddenly taken on more urgency. This is because it soon will be not only a usability issue, but also a ranking factor in the Google algorithm.

Beginning April 21, mobile-friendly sites will be rewarded in the Google rankings. Google has stated that this change will affect mobile searches and will have a “significant impact” in the search results.

Google’s overriding goal is that “…users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.”

What Makes a Site Mobile Friendly?

According to Google, a mobile-friendly site is one that you can easily read & use on a smartphone, by only having to scroll up or down. A site that requires swiping left to right or zooming to see content is considered NOT mobile friendly.

Google has established these key criteria by which it evaluates how usable a website is on mobile devices:

  • A defined viewing area (or viewport) that adjusts to the device’s screen size.

  • Content that flows in the viewport, so that users don’t have to scroll horizontally or pinch the screen in order to see the entire page.

  • Fonts that scale for easier reading on small screens.

  • Easy-to-touch elements (e.g., buttons) that are well-spaced from other touch elements.

  • Visual design and motion driven by mobile-friendly technology.

What To Do About It?

The first step was to run your site through the Google Mobile Friendly Test tool. If Googlebot blesses your site as mobile friendly, you are off to a great start!

If, alternately, your site is not deemed mobile friendly, you will see a message like this:

In this case, you will need to focus on improving mobile accessibility and usability in order to benefit from the algorithm shift. Google provides several helpful links if you do get the “Not mobile-friendly” test result. Among these is a link to Google Webmaster Tools.

Next you will want to access and review the Mobile Usability Report for your site in Google Webmaster Tools.

This report flags the following issues related to the key mobile-friendly criteria:

  • Small font size (Make sure all font sizes comply with mobile usability standards.)

  • Content not sized to viewport (Make sure your pages don't require horizontal scrolling to view completely.)

  • Touch elements too close (Make sure your links and buttons are far enough apart.)

  • Fixed-width Viewport (Make sure your viewport supports a fluid layout, so that pages can be easily viewed on mobile devices.)

  • Flash usage (Make sure your pages don’t include Flash content that cannot be viewed on mobile devices.)

  • Viewport not configured (Make sure this is in place. A viewport scales the page to the correct size for mobile browsers.

Here is how the Mobile Usability Report for your site will appear if you have an optimally mobile-friendly site.

If the Mobile Usability Report for your site identifies some errors, you will see a report similar to this.

It may contain more or fewer categories depending on your specific site issues. If you have errors, you will need to work with your web team to address these and help you achieve an optimal mobile version of your site.


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