Kyosei Creative | Design to go: What can I do to make my site mobile-friendly?

Design to go: What can I do to make my site mobile-friendly?

Google’s newest major algorithm update, “Mobilegeddon” has come and gone; though it may not have made quite the splash that SEO experts claimed it would, we’re starting to see some changes in mobile SERPs as Google favours sites that have mobile-friendly design. It’s late 2015 and we see fewer and fewer mobile-hostile sites; however, we occasionally get a shock of annoyance when we land on one (and an even worse shock if the site is [mis]using Flash). A 5% drop in search traffic may not be drastic, but it is significant.

For more information on Mobilegeddon, read our previous post here.

If you’re not sure how mobile friendly your site is, you should definitely check your site with Google’s webmaster tools (

Do you pass? You might  be surprised. If your site is mobile friendly, congratulations. As design geeks, we’d like to personally thank you for providing a good user experience to the majority of surfers. You’re really making the world a better place.

If your site isn’t mobile-friendly, read on:

There are a few ways to make a mobile-friendly site. We’ll get more into these in a future post, but I’ll lay out some basic pros and cons below.

RECOMMENDED APPROACH: Redesign your site with responsive design

The look of the web changes quickly. If you haven’t had any web work done in the last half-decade, it might be time to consider an update. Responsive design is the biggest trend in web design since 2012, and with frameworks like Twitter Bootstrap, it’s never been easier. In the last 3 years, responsive design has become so prevalent that you can pretty much guess the age of a site by simply resizing your browser window.

Responsive sites can work at many different screen resolutions and require much less maintenance. They can be a more expensive to build, and may require the occasional tweak, but since it’s considered the same site, the overall maintenance is much easier (and cheaper). Likewise, from an SEO perspective, you reduce the chance of incurring Google’s infamous duplicate content penalty.

If you, like many web denizens out there, are using the WordPress platform you may be in luck. Most themes of the last 2-3 years are responsive and even if your old theme isn’t, you can either have it updated, or, have your web team implement a new responsive version. Whether you hire a dev team or DIY it, WordPress is probably your best option for putting up a decent mobile site, fast.

Need another reason to go responsive?  Google says you should.


NOT RECOMMENDED (But okay as a last resort): Create a second, mobile-only site on a subdomain.

Mobile-only sites were favoured at the dawn of the mobile age, and you occasionally still run across them. These stripped-down sub-sites work fine in terms of user-experience, and should pass Google’s test. They can be easier to deploy and more flexible when it comes to layout, since you can remove and change the order of elements easily.

However, we caution against this route for a few reasons:

  1. Most mobile-only sites were not created with modern smartphones in mind. Modern iPhones and Android phones are able to handle pretty much any web content that a desktop can, and users want (nay, deserve!) a full website experience on the go.
  2. Since a mobile site is essentially a second site, it needs to be built as such.
  3. It also needs to be maintained separately, which can be a major pain.
  4. Mobile sites tend to be optimized for a single device size, and, since devices keep changing, your mobile site is one weird iPhone update away from being out of date.
  5. Since the mobile site is technically a second site, it won’t contribute to your main site’s Google rank (and vice-versa).
  6. The site’s page content can’t be the same as your main site otherwise Google may flag it with a duplicate content penalty (as Google can think it looks spammy).
  7. Finally, people find it really annoying to be linked to a mobile version of a site on a desktop. (Or maybe that’s just me).

Ultimately, we believe that, mobile-only sites are a relic of the distant days of 2010. If you’re redoing your site now, you almost certainly want to go with the former responsive approach.

Update your current design to be responsive

There is a third option: If you’ve got a relatively small site and are in love with your current design, it may be possible to cut some responsive elements into your design. This could be a good quick-fix. With larger sites comprising many types of content, this is not a feasible solution, and we recommend a full responsive redesign.

Please note that this will only work if your site is using modern web standards and best practices. If you’re using Flash or a similarly dated technology, you’re in for a total re-do.

And if you’re on WordPress (which we tend to recommend), you might be able to change or update your theme to a more modern version, pretty much all of which offer responsive design. Because of how WordPress handles content, most of your work should be preserved just fine*.

*(There are some weird WordPress themes out there that don’t work like this, so we don’t recommend trying this yourself without a good backup and a web expert on hand! Call us. We’d be happy to provide you with a free consult!).

[Updated May 15, 2015 and Aug 27, 2015]

Feature photo © Idprod / Dollar Photo Club

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