We have been bombarded recently with emails from Google’s webmaster tools which we use to track the health of people’s websites. The same message over and over: make your website mobile friendly or it won’t rank so well in the future in searches from mobile devices. And it seems the same has happened industry-wide.
Google is now telling the industry that simply having a decent functioning website that looks good but small on a mobile device isn’t good enough any more. You need a website that has a mobile specific design or ‘responsive design’. Personally I have a dislike for responsive design (much as a car enthusiast might prefer classic cars – they don’t make websites like they used to), such sites are blocky and struggle to look great on ANY device. They are also difficult to get 100% right and take more effort to put together in the first place. I’ve seen some very expensive websites which break apart at certain screen sizes – showing that many developers are struggling with implementation.
I also think that the whole mobile thing is a conspiracy by Google – they keep telling us the huge number of people using mobile devices to access websites these days and we must make responsive websites to match AND advertise there because mobile advertising is such a growth area (yeah, for Google it is). BUT. More people using mobile to access websites? Really? I mean REALLY??? I used to use my smartphone a lot to access websites as a novelty 5 years ago but now when I’m looking for a replacement phone I’m looking for something small with a battery life longer than a flashbulb to make phone calls on. If I want the mobile internet I use a tablet, which works just fine with traditional sites thank you very much. And the same is true of everybody I speak to. Who wants to peer through a tiny 5 inch screen at a website unless they’re stuck in an airport?
I would imagine that Google will take some time to actually make this change but if you are thinking of a new website now then make sure it has a responsive design and is mobile AND tablet friendly. If you have a traditional website then it might be worth considering a refresh in the next year. One thing you can be sure of is that next year websites will be all looking much more blocky – such is the price of progress.