Mobile optimization: Why your site needs to render well on mobile

Can employees, potential hires and investors easily find information on your corporate website using their mobile devices? If not, it’s time for a fix — and stat.

Whether they’re employees looking for details on benefits or investors searching for information on earnings, in today’s hectic, connected world, visitors to your company’s website need to be able to access information wherever they are, whenever they want it. Long gone are the days of users putting up with sites that look beautiful on desktop browsers but are clunky to the point of unusability on mobile devices.

Maybe you’ve heard the term “mobile optimization.” That’s the technical term for making sure web visitors have a positive experience when viewing your site on mobile. Considering that internet use on mobile or tablet devices surpassed desktop use globally for the first time last fall, making sure that your company looks good on mobile is essential. Google has reported on the many ways that not having a mobile-friendly site can undermine your brand.

The move to “responsive” sites

To ensure your website renders well on portable devices, look to a method called mobile-responsive design. The “responsive” part means that the website automatically changes its appearance based on the device it’s being viewed on and who’s viewing it. On a desktop, for example, one company’s site might have three columns of text and multiple images. On a mobile device, content shifts to just one column and the group of images reduces to only one.

This type of design makes the mobile experience more user friendly and streamlined. It eliminates whatever’s unnecessary on mobile, like large images, and instead allows you to highlight key messages and information. For potential employees, this might mean a button for new job listings; for investors, maybe it’s a link to a new research report. Making it easy for users to get relevant information with a sharp, consistent and user-friendly site builds credibility and keeps visitors coming back for more.

Mobile-responsive design is a far cry from previous mobile solutions — one of which was to create a separate site for mobile. Lately, more and more companies have moved to responsive sites, which makes sense, given the major benefits and the number of devices in play, all of which have unique screen dimensions. Plus, it’s what Google recommends.

Better SEO

Not sure if your site is responsive? On a desktop, you can tell if a site is responsive by dragging your browser window size from a full screen to a tiny screen. If the text and images are reconfigured as the window shrinks, your site is responsive.

Going responsive not only helps optimize mobile traffic, but it can also enhance your SEO. That’s because Google favors mobile-optimized websites when displaying search results on mobile devices — even more so when the search is for a local service. Google also has an easier time indexing content on responsive sites since they use a single URL, as opposed to sites with a separate URL for mobile.

Even if your site is already responsive, it’s a good idea to periodically review your content on both a desktop and a mobile device to make sure that it’s delivering a positive experience for both audiences.

When you’re thinking about mobile optimization as a tool to help you better communicate with employees, job candidates and investors, carefully consider your site architecture. If using a responsive site means that a significant amount of your homepage content will disappear on mobile, it might make sense to shift some of that information to a separate page.

Consider making some text on your homepage larger, eliminating columns and spacing out “touch elements” to make it easier to tap on an item, as well as doing away with components that aren’t mobile friendly, like Flash images. Simplifying your pages with mobile in mind is a win-win — you’ll better engage mobile users and you’ll be left with a sleeker site.

Deborah Lynn Blumberg has more than 15 years’ experience writing business and finance topics for The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, The Christian Science Monitor and Newsday. She was a Knight Center fellow and a Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism fellow and is a founder and co-president of the Texas chapter of American Society of Journalists and Authors.

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