18 March 2015

Hypertext Helpline: Mobile-Friendly Blogs

You'd think by now it would be easy to navigate any website on your smartphone or tablet. Unfortunately, many websites still have you zoom in and then the text won't re-size or you can't press the links or buttons you need to. When a website adjusts itself for several different screens, this is called mobile responsive. In particular, a mobile responsive website is something everyone seriously needs to consider because it will be part of the search rank included in Google's algorithms.

You see the "mobile-friendly" text? That tag tells people that, hey, this site is cool by Google's mobile usability standards and won't be a pain to navigate around on your mobile device. Hooray! Google will be adding this tag and a new algorithm to their search that ranks in favor of mobile-friendly websites. So if you aren't mobile-friendly then you might lose some of your rank. Uh oh. Here's what you can do.


Fortunately if you use Blogger or a WordPress.com blog (isn't self-hosted), you don't have to worry as they are automatically mobile responsive. But what about self-hosted WordPress blogs or other blogging platforms? There are solutions for you, too!

You can use the Google Mobile-Friendly Test to see any site's mobile "score." A portion of your website could already be mobile-friendly while a few pages might not be and this test will tell you (although it can be vague in true Google fashion). This is where mobile responsive can definitely help but we'll get to that later.

But first, what are Google's conditions so that your blog doesn't get ranked down in search results? Here's a quick checklist:
  • Fast response and load times. The biggest culprits of slower websites on mobile tend to be having a ton of HD quality images and video all on one page.
  • Easy to navigate for users. Drop-down menus on a desktop work but can sometimes be confusing on mobile. Always ask: "Will this be easy to navigate on a phone?" Or, test it out yourself!
  • Spacing for buttons. Make it easy to click those buttons so there isn't any accidental clicking. This can actually contribute to users leaving your website early.


So, what can you do to ensure your blog is mobile-friendly? Like mentioned before, you can use a mobile responsive layout. Developing a mobile responsive website from scratch is a bit of a pain but I've rounded up some hacks and resources you can use to ensure that your blog or website is mobile responsive.

Find a mobile responsive template
There are free or relatively inexpensive templates out there so your blog is mobile responsive. Simply do a Google search "mobile responsive blog templates." Or, my favorite place to find designers is actually through Etsy. If you use Tumblr, just look through their available mobile category--there's a bunch that are free!

Update your current WordPress theme
Because of the new standards Google announced for mobile-friendly, many developers are making changes to their current WordPress themes. If your blog didn't pass the mobile usability test before, try going back to your blog and updating the version of your theme and then trying the test again.

Check the WordPress Marketplace
If a version update didn't work, there are mobile responsive WordPress templates out there. Genesis themes in particular are ALL responsive and also just great templates for bloggers looking to have a professional looking site. The Genesis ones are typically paid, however.

Hire a freelancer
Alternatively, you could seek out a freelancer to help make your current theme responsive instead. There are designers you can find through Twitter, eLance, and Etsy who will only customize the theme you have right now to ensure it is mobile-friendly. That way you don't have to shell out hundreds or thousands of dollars for design and development work.

While mobile responsive isn't the only solution to be mobile-friendly, it certainly is the best in my opinion. You'll have a nicely made blog that can be read on any and all devices with ease no matter their screen size because your blog automatically compensates for it. Now isn't that just nice?

Google will be officially implementing the mobile-friendly algorithm changes on April 21st. So, you still have some time to get your blog up to snuff but it'll come up faster than you think.

If there are any techie topics you'd like me to cover in Hypertext Helpline, please let me know. See you next time!

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