It was in 2015 that Google first announced a change to its algorithm that would prioritize websites which display well on tablet and mobile devices. Dubbed “mobilegeddon” by the development community, the move caused a scramble to make websites mobile-friendly.
The mobile trend continued and in December of 2017, Google announced they had begun the process of implementing a “mobile-first indexing” plan. As outlined by Google, this move meant that the search engine would use the mobile version of a web page for indexing and ranking purposes. After extensive testing, Google began to roll out this new indexing plan in March of 2018.
Why Prioritize Mobile?
With over 60% of all searches originating from mobile devices, Google is taking steps to better assist mobile users in finding what they are searching for. That percentage is only likely to increase.
Other search engines have followed suit, and in the fast-paced, mobile-ready world of today; businesses of all kinds need to take a mobile-friendly approach to connecting with their customers. To achieve this goal, businesses and their developers have several options to choose from.
There are three main options to consider: Mobile-dedicated websites, responsive design websites, and mobile apps. These are three similar, yet different approaches and they all have their pros and cons.
These are sites designed specifically for the mobile user and typically live under a separate URL from the main site. Mobile-dedicated websites typically contain the content of the site that has been deemed mobile-friendly or appropriate. It may help to think of it as a “lite” version of the full website.
If you’ve ever visited a website on your phone only to find that some of the features on the desktop version aren’t accessible on mobile; odds are you were visiting a mobile-dedicated website. The downside is that occasionally certain features and content will be omitted from the mobile version which can cause frustration with users.
A responsive website contains a special design which allows the site to modify its content to fit onto the screen being displayed. Laptop, desktop, tablet, or mobile device; a responsive website “responds” to the screen type.
Responsive websites are a good catch-all solution, and are especially useful if you aren’t sure where your traffic will come from. They’re especially helpful for capturing new customers who may be visiting from a broad range of devices.
Unlike mobile-dedicated websites, responsive websites are not modified versions of the site. Where a mobile-dedicated website will strip down the features of the desktop site and display the content that has been approved for mobile; responsive websites retain the functions and content.
On the downside, responsive websites deliver a single website for your business and that website needs to be able to suit all users. This can lead to certain features or aspects of a page not working properly or loading as quickly on certain devices.
Mobile apps are becoming increasingly popular among businesses. However, there are a few different options to consider under the “mobile app” umbrella.
Native mobile apps are what most people envision when they hear “app.” These are platform-specific, meaning that an app developed for the iPhone will not automatically work on an Android. There is a great deal of freedom to be had with native mobile apps. Of all types, native mobile apps have the best speed and performance
Web apps are browser-based applications which bridge the gap between website and app. They behave much like a traditional application; however, they do lack the full functionality of native apps such as sending push notifications. Furthermore, the app is reliant on the browser to operate.
As the name implies, hybrid apps combine attributes of web and mobile apps. Hybrid apps are web applications that behave more like a mobile app. Users install them on their device like they would a normal app, however unlike a web app they are not dependent on the browser.
With most apps, you have a level of freedom for customization and features that regular website don’t offer. Depending on your app type, you can employ features that make use of the device’s camera, GPS, push notifications, and more.
Which One Is Right For You?
As you can see from the breakdown and information above; there are pros and cons of each approach. In some cases, more than one solution may be right for you. Responsive or mobile websites are a great way to capture new mobile users; while mobile apps are a great way to keep the connection going and remain top of mind.