Last Tuesday, Google implemented updates to their search system that will punish sites that are not mobile-friendly by pushing them down in the search rankings. Since then, the nonprofit world has been abuzz with discussion about the importance of mobile-responsive, or mobile-friendly, websites.
This leaves us with a very important question to consider:
What does “mobile-responsive” even mean anyway?
Tech folks have a bad habit of throwing around jargon that no one understands. Even if you are familiar with the phrase “mobile-responsive,” it might hold some meaning that you didn’t realize.
What is a “Mobile-Responsive” Website?
If you’ve ever looked up a website on your smartphone’s web browser, chances are you’ve run into a non-mobile-responsive website at some point.
They’re the kind of sites that when you visit on your desktop computer, they look beautiful. But when you visit later on your phone, you find yourself having to zoom in to read text, wait for giant images to load, or worse yet, you can’t see any of the content on the site!
It’s a frustrating experience as a user, which is exactly why Google wants to encourage website owners to change their sites to make it easier for mobile users to navigate the web.
On the flipside, responsive pages respond to the type of device you’re using and change their appearance in order to make it easy for you to navigate the site. Certain things about the website might change to make it easier to navigate on a small screen.
How Can I Tell if My Nonprofit’s Website is Mobile-Responsive?
There are some fantastic, easy-to-use (and free!) tools out there that will tell you exactly how mobile-friendly your site is.
In anticipation of the major change to their search system, Google released a mobile-responsive test that will tell you exactly why or why not your site is mobile-friendly.
Another favorite is the Responsive Design Checker. This tool will actually show you what your website looks like on a whole litany of devices, from different sized desktop computers, to tablets, and smartphones.
So what kind of factors make a page NOT mobile-responsive?
To answer this question, I went to our inhouse expert here at WeDidIt, Eric Finer.
Eric is a front-end developer here at WeDidIt, which essentially means he makes websites all day, every day.
When it comes to web design, Eric knows what he’s talking about.
Here were some of his suggestions for things to avoid.
1. Links That Are Too Small to Click
Mobile users rely on their thumbs to navigate your website, so if the links and buttons are too small and cumbersome to select using your thumb, you’re putting your visitors in a bad place.
If you’ve got important links that you want to make extra sure are clickable, Eric has a suggestion:
“A good option is to expand important links into buttons, which are easy to ‘click’ using your thumbs.”
2. Side Bars
Side bars are a great way to organize information on a website when viewed on a desktop. In fact, we utilize them on our blog (just look at all that great information over there!).
But when viewed on a much narrower mobile phone screen, having side bars on your site require everything to be zoomed out to fit. This results in the main content on your site being too small to read.
Side bars aren’t inherently bad; they’re great when viewed on a desktop. But your site should know when a visitor is using a mobile phone and find a different way to display that content (perhaps placing it underneath the main content).
3. Large Image Files
Even if you’ve got an outstanding cell connection with blazing fast speed, it’s still likely slower than your home internet.
And there’s no experience more frustrating as an internet user than waiting forever for content to load.
If your site features large image files that take ages to load on a mobile screen, your visitors will find themselves frustrated and will likely leave your site. In fact, this factor is so important that Google added to their search algorithm (how they rank sites) five years ago! If you want to drive donors to your page, this would be a good thing to avoid.
4. Text That’s Too Small to Read
Can you imagine driving past a billboard that used newspaper-sized font? It’d be worthless!
Having text on your site that is too small to read is just as useless. Making your visitors zoom in and scroll back and forth across a page is just bad internet manners. Visitors to your website are your guests, and you should treat them the same as you would treat visitors to your office or facilities: like they’re the most important people you’re going to see all day.
5. Pop-Ups That Can’t Be Disabled On the Phone
Let’s get one thing out of the way: pop-ups are annoying.
Let’s get something else out of the way: they work.
I’m a big fan of the sparing use pop-up calls-to-action on the most popular sections of your website because they’re very effective at getting someone’s attention and moving them towards an action. The key word here being “sparing.”
But if you do choose to go this route, it’s extremely important that the tool you use is mobile-responsive. Pop-ups that work on your desktop can often be impossible to turn-off on a mobile screen.
I know I wouldn’t stick around on that site.
The best way to test is to try it yourself
The best way to know if your website is easy to navigate on a mobile phone is to just try it yourself. We often get wrapped up in our own work and never take the time to look at all the ways our donors might interact with our site.
Whip out your iPhone, and visit your organization’s page. Is it easy to navigate? What’s harder than it should be? What’s the most important thing you want visitors to the site to do? Make those things easy.
Mobile-responsiveness comes down to one thing: make things easy for your website visitors. Forget the Google algorithms and search rankings. Solve for your donors and visitors, and you’re all set.