Will Mobilegeddon Cause a Mobile Website Design Revolution?

When search giant Google announced its new mobile-friendly ranking algorithm back in April, the news sent shockwaves through the global digital community. We braced, trembling in our boots, as the ominous so-called ‘Mobilegeddon’ approached.

As the nickname implies, most of us in the search community expected the shift to mark an apocalyptic downfall for the industry. Thanks to Mobilegeddon, having a mobile-friendly website is no longer optional. Now, if you want to stay relevant in the all-seeing eyes of Google, ‘mobile-friendliness’ is imperative.

This paradigm shift is already having a major positive impact on web design around the world, causing website owners to rethink, redesign and reposition their online real estate. As it loomed, the cloud of Mobilegeddon invoked fear. But our seemingly threatening intruder turned out to have a silver lining of unexpected opportunity.

What is this Mobilegeddon?

From an objective point of view, the negative posturing around ‘Mobilegeddon’ has been unnecessarily pessimistic. Remember: Armageddon is an end-of-the-world prophecy entailing the clash of various armies for a civilization-obliterating battle. It’s quite a bleak scenario – and a far cry from what’s really happening in the digital world.

In simple terms, Mobilegeddon is a revised Google search algorithm that penalizes websites if they’re not mobile-friendly. The new algorithm is Google’s response to the ever-increasing number of mobile users browsing the net. With the suite of changes, Google promotes mobile-friendly websites to higher search rankings, while demoting static websites that aren’t optimized for mobile access.

Google released specific guidelines that websites must follow in order to satisfy its ‘mobile-friendly’ requirements:

  • The website must use text that is readable without zooming;
  • It must avoid software that is not common on mobile devices, like Flash;
  • It must scale its content to the screen size, so users don’t have to zoom or scroll horizontally;
  • It must place links far enough apart so that the correct one can be easily tapped.

For web developers whose sites weren’t tailored for mobile access, Mobilegeddon certainly did initially seem like the end of the world. But in truth, the new algorithm represents a constructive call to arms and a new chapter of possibilities for web developers. This is, after all, about more than just complying with Google.

By neglecting mobile users and compromising the mobile UX, millions of un-optimized websites were warding off potential customers and thereby squandering business opportunity. Google’s Mobilegeddon has simply given us a shake-up and saved businesses from shooting themselves in the foot with poor, ‘unfriendly’ web design.

Statistics Show: The Revolution Will Be Mobile

Doomsday drama aside, Google’s algorithm changes should not have come as any great surprise. In the last few years, we’ve seen a surge in smartphone ownership and an exponential increase in mobile phone Internet usage.

Recent studies show that worldwide mobile phone Internet user penetration leapt from 73.4 percent in 2013 to 79.1 percent in 2014. By 2017, it’s estimated that more than 90 percent of Internet users will be accessing online content through their phones.

The Revolution Will Be Mobile

The evidence is everywhere – just look around. People can’t seem to keep their hands off their mobile devices. On every crowded commuter train, unblinking eyes stare at mobile device screens while busy fingertips swipe and type. The sight of pedestrians using smartphones while they walk has become commonplace. New laws have even been introduced, prohibiting drivers from using mobile devices whilst on the road.

New research from eMarketer shows that the number of smartphone users worldwide edged towards 2 billion this year. For the first time, more than one quarter of the global population was using smartphones and over one third of consumers worldwide (more than 2.56 billion people) are expected to do so by 2018. That projected figure represents more than half of all mobile phone users (51.7 percent). This tells us that we’ve reached a tipping point where feature phones have become a minority in the telecommunications landscape.

In recent years, the market has been flooded with inexpensive smartphones, opening up new opportunities for commerce in emerging markets where consumers once had little or no access to the Internet. Meanwhile, in established markets, the widespread saturation of smartphone ownership has shifted the paradigm for consumer media usage, urging marketers to become more mobile-centric.

In 2012, it was found that Internet users spent an average of 74.4 minutes on mobile Internet services per day. By 2015, daily mobile Internet usage of global online users had swelled to 119.4 minutes per day, up from 112.8 minutes in the previous year.

Mobile Internet access

Age seems to be a significant variable when measuring mobile Internet access. In 2014, Millennials (16-30 years) proved to be the generation with the highest level of mobile Internet penetration at 74 percent. In comparison, 39 percent of Baby Boomers (51-64 years) worldwide used their mobile devices to access the Internet.

In June 2015, the top online activities for mobile users worldwide were emailing, visiting social media sites, and reading news. As you can see in the graph below, commercial activities – like online shopping, online banking, and online gaming – also figure prominently in the way that mobile users are spending time online. People no longer have to wait till they are stationed at a desk to surf the Internet. With the rise of mobile, the Internet is in our back pockets, 24-7.

Global website traffic

In the final quarter of 2010, Walker Sands estimated that a modest 6.25 percent of global website traffic came from mobile devices. By the first quarter of 2014, mobile devices accounted for a whopping 31.2 percent of all website traffic worldwide. And mobile traffic doesn’t look like it will be slowing down any time soon.

Last month at the Recode Mobile Conference, Google Head of Search Amit Singhal announced that, worldwide, Google searches on mobile devices (not including searches done on tablet computers) had surpassed those on personal computers for the first time. This landmark was achieved in the UK, USA and Australia as early as May 2015.

The consistent growth of the mobile market removes any lingering doubt – mobile has become a serious rival for desktop. Now, the only remaining question is: Who will adapt their websites first, to gain a competitive edge?

Staring Down Mobilegeddon

Staring Down Mobilegeddon

How To Optimize Your Site In The Wake Of Mobilegeddon?

With the rapid uptake of mobile Internet use, a slick, user-friendly mobile interface is crucial for any brand or business that wants to stay top-of-mind online. In today’s digital climate, if your website is hard to access or use with a mobile device, you are losing eyeballs and potential sales.

Today’s consumers are not passive or sedentary – they are active and mobile. To keep up with them, capture their attention and win their business, brands have to be nimble and stay one step ahead with mobile-friendly website design.

The key principles of mobile-friendly web design are:

  • Simple navigation;
  • Ease of reading;
  • Clear prioritization of features;
  • Easy to find contact information.

As for the technical approaches, there are three popular methods to make your website more mobile-friendly: Mobile Website, Responsive Website, or Mobile App. Each approach has its place and can potentially help you meet Google’s new requirements.

1. Mobile Website

The mobile website is the original solution to improving the user experience for mobile users. This simple, cost-effective option has been around since mobile providers first started offering Internet for their users and remains popular to this day.

Basically, a mobile website is a recreation of the original desktop version of a website, but optimized to work on different mobile devices. With this setup, any users who try to access your website from a mobile device are simply redirected to the mobile version, which is better equipped for browsing with that particular device.

2. Responsive Website

Responsive Website

The web design industry has been buzzing in recent years with chatter about responsive design, the new go-to option for catering to the ever-growing population of mobile users.

A responsive website is built on a platform that basically adapts to each device’s parameters and alters the layout of the website accordingly. This ensures that, no matter what device is used to visit a site, each user will have a comfortable browsing experience.

This method allows web designers to develop a website as a whole concept, rather than trying to design separate desktop and mobile versions.

3. Mobile App

Mobile and responsive websites solve many of the UX and accessibility problems for mobile usersbut they are not always the most effective solutions.

For companies that use their websites for specific tasks, like allowing visitors to complete bookings or check for updates, it often makes more sense for the designer to develop a mobile app which can simplify these tasks on a mobile device. Even with a well designed responsive website, performing specific functions can sometimes be problematic. In these cases, a customized app guarantees a better user experience.

It’s worth noting that you don’t necessarily need to shell out for any of these design solutions. If resources are limited, you can adjust your existing website to meet Google’s new mobile-friendly ratings by simply ensuring that your fonts are reasonably sized and your links and tap targets aren’t too close together. Google has designed a Mobile-friendly Test which can help you determine how your website stacks up against these criteria.

Mobilegeddon Fallout: What Next?

After all the collective anxiety and anticipation, the impact of Mobilegeddon on search rankings has been nowhere near as dramatic as many expected. Many thought that websites that weren’t mobile-friendly would simply drop from the first page of search results as soon as the algorithm changed – that never happened.

For certain search terms and keywords, plenty of non-mobile-friendly sites still rank in the top 5 and even at the top of the Search Engine Results Pages. Here at OCTOS, some of our clients managed to maintain their search rankings quite comfortably in the wake of Mobilegeddon without any major website redesign. And those who have made significant website modifications to enhance their mobile user experience have been reaping the rewards twofold, with better search results than ever and notable increases in mobile traffic.

Now that our initial trepidation has passed, the search community can say with full confidence that no website upgrading and optimization efforts have been in vain. Making your website more mobile-friendly guarantees benefits that go far beyond your Google search ranking.

Mobile Internet usage has worked its way into the daily life of smartphone and tablet users worldwide, enabling consumers to access information and share their lives whenever they want, wherever they want. If your website isn’t mobile-optimized, you’re less likely to attract and convert traffic from this ever-growing pool of mobile visitors. So, regardless of ranking, you may be leaking lots of valuable traffic to other websites that are more mobile-friendly.

Mobilegeddon has not turned out to be the doomsday prophecy that many feared. To the contrary, it has prompted website owners around the world to lift their game and stay one step ahead of the digital curve.

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6 Comments

  1. I have a responsive website. I get more experience to your blog and i think that the experience apply professional work.

    • Thanks Karim for the feedback and yes what you are saying is absolutely making sense.

  2. Hi, Nital!
    Great job!
    Definitely, Mobilegeddon is a signal for web developers to pay more attention to the mobile internet. It’s necessary to say that in a couple of years non-mobile friendly websites will be penalized not by Google (ranking drops) but customers themselves. That’s why web development professionals have to consider Mobilegeddon not like a penalty but like an advice for future successful solutions development.

    • Thanks Ace for stopping here. I appreciate your thoughts and yes for sure, mobile & responsiveness are the next 2 big things I am looking forward atleast.

  3. Well, been accessible is what matters. And mobile devices play a big role in it. If you can have more viewers it can only help. Also, most of the website content is read while doing some everyday work, while using the bus, etc. They have big role in making the content available anywhere at any time. The website experience should be tweaked for mobile users, so that they can read the site without a hassle.

    • Hoya Nick. Thanks for your words. I am aligned with your thoughts as well. Mobile devices and designs are the next big thing coming to us. Keep sharing and stay in touch.

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