Everywhere I look at the moment are stories about the website re-design
technological improvement of the moment that allegedly make the site ready for mobile: "responsive" websites.
Here's a couple from the last 24 hours:
All of this "responsiveness" has been driven by a Google article from June 2012: how best to create a smartphone optimised website
. Earlier this year, Google reinforced this with the heavy suggestion that websites NOT
optimised like this would be penalised in search results (cue panic amongst the SEO fraternity).
Now, this is all great for Google - but isn't necessarily the 'right' way to deliver a great user experience for your customers when they look at your site on their phones or tablets.
Perhaps there's an opportunity out there for someone to create a new "mobile" search engine?
A quick refresher on what we are talking about when we refer to Responsive website design
(RWD): "... [it] is a web design approach aimed at crafting
sites to provide an optimal viewing experience, easy reading and navigation
with a minimum of resizing, panning and scrolling across a wide range of
devices from desktop computer monitors to mobile phones.
A site designed with RWD adapts the layout to the viewing environment by using
fluid, proportion-based grids, flexible images, and CSS3 media queries..."
But, as we can see from the comments in the second article, simply adding
"media queries" to your website goes as far as making the content
"flow" or hiding the assets that are not mobile-relevant (hide, note, they are still sent from the server across the mobile network, slowing down your page loads times).
It doesn't "adapt" the assets
displayed to be appropriate to the device and internet connection between the
server and the device.
Making your website work on mobile is, first and foremost, about the user
Understand that there is reams of public research results out there to show that people
won't wait for your site to load on their phones.
queries alone don't solve:
- needing fast page load times over the mobile networks (and look at the worst case network coverage load times - we all know you can never get a signal when you want one, even (especially?) in big cities where you most expect it)
- mobile-specific functions: a website designed for the mouse isn't going to deliver a great experience when viewed on a phone or tablet with a touch interface
needing a "mobile" user experience that is subtly different from desktop.
- dealing with different devices differently. All the "big boys" of the web (Amazon, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, the BBC... ) deliver their sites through multiple templates - a different one for mobile vs tablet vs desktop... and even dealing with landscape vs portrait views.
So, squeezing your large file-size images over the mobile networks, with a load
time of 2, or 3 or more minutes will, quiet rightly, be getting you a
high bounce rate.
You need RESS
as well - server side content and an API in the middle determining the device accessing your site and requesting and being served the "right" assets.
RCSS will improve your mobile conversion. But nowhere near as well as adding in RESS.
Before Google stirred up the hornets nest and put the responsive cat amongst the pigeons
(allow me to mix my metaphors for a moment), a separate mobile site (RESS
alone) would have been sufficient.
Sorting your website out for the mobile age is not just a job for the glory-hunters in GUI design and front-end dev. To get a truly 5* customer experience, you need the grunts in back end dev to do their bit as well.