In the wake of Mobilegeddon, Google’s major algorithm update in April 2015 which emphasized the importance of mobile optimization, ensuring a good experience for your mobile users is more important than ever. With Google now giving preference to mobile-friendly sites in the search rankings, now is the time to ensure optimal mobile performance by conducting a mobile usability audit. Ensuring your site is performing optimally on all devices and screen sizes will help you meet the needs of your mobile users, and will prevent your site from experiencing common usability issues.
6 POTENTIAL MOBILE USABILITY ISSUES
According to Google Webmaster’s mobile usability help page, there are six potential issues that could cause a site to render poorly on mobile devices. When performing a mobile usability audit, it’s important to understand what each of these potential issues is, as well as how to fix them.
Note: When using Google’s tools to evaluate your site, you’ll notice that all warnings and error messages use the verbiage below, making it easy to understand and implement any necessary changes.
FLASH USAGE: Since Flash isn’t rendered on many mobile browsers, most of your mobile visitors won’t be able to properly access Flash-based content. If you receive this error message, convert your content to HTML5 to keep in line with newer, more mobile-friendly standards.
VIEW PORT NOT CONFIGURED: Due to the variety of screen sizes used to access the web, sites should indicate a viewport in the meta viewport tag. This will ensure the site will scale to whatever device is being used – whether that’s a smartphone, tablet or computer. Using responsive design will help ensure your viewport is configured properly and your site is scaled to accommodate all screen sizes.
FIXED-WIDTH VIEWPORT: This is sometimes used in order to make a non-mobile-friendly page adjust to fit mobile screens. While this can be a temporary fix for some pages, Google does not recommend this practice be used long term. A responsive design should be implemented instead.
CONTENT NOT SIZED TO VIEWPORT: If a page requires horizontal scrolling in order to access content, you may receive this error message. Google recommends using relative width and position values and scalable images.
SMALL FONT SIZE: Google recommends a font size of 16 CSS pixels. This ensures your text is easily viewable on mobile, and that mobile users don’t need to pinch to zoom in on your text.
TOUCH ELEMENTS TOO CLOSE: When buttons and links are too close, your mobile users may have trouble accurately tapping on them. Tap targets should be placed far enough apart that mobile users don’t accidentally click on nearby elements. Google recommends that the main tap targets on your page be 48 CSS pixels tall and wide while targets that are used less frequently can be smaller.
HOW TO PERFORM A MOBILE USABILITY AUDIT
Any kind of website usability audit aims to identify how a site is performing in a particular area. In essence, it looks at a site from a user perspective in order to identify elements that need to be fixed or improved. In the case of a mobile usability audit, we want to identify any potential issues that may be hindering mobile-friendly user experience.
Google has provided webmasters with two primary methods of analyzing the mobile-usability of their sites. These will help you to identify any potential usability issues based specifically on the six elements outlined above. Google has also provided detailed instructions to assist site owners in fixing these issues and providing a sound mobile experience.
METHOD ONE: GOOGLE’S MOBILE-FRIENDLY TEST TOOL
Google’s Mobile-Friendly test tool assesses whether a particular page is mobile-friendly or not. This is a great starting point for your mobile usability audit as it will help you identify key issues that could be impacting not only the usability of your site but your search rankings as well.
Using the six factors outlined above, the tool gives an overall rating of ‘mobile-friendly’ or ‘not mobile-friendly’, a breakdown of potential issues, an overview of how Googlebot views the page, as well as specific guidance for making the page mobile-friendly.
METHOD TWO: ACCESS THE MOBILE USABILITY REPORT IN GOOGLE WEBMASTER TOOLS
If you have a Google Webmaster Tools account, the process of analyzing your site is even simpler. Simply log into your GWT account, and navigate to Mobile Usability under Search Traffic. You can also access the report for multiple web properties you own via this link. If there are any usability issues with your site, they will be identified in the Mobile Usability Report. Any issues are clearly identified in terms of the number of pages impacted, as well as which specific elements need work on which specific pages. After you’ve fixed each page to comply with Google’s recommendations (and after Google has had a chance to crawl your site), you should see the warnings disappear.
Google has provided a wealth of information to help webmasters create responsive, mobile-friendly sites. Besides their mobile-usability help page, they also offer a detailed guide to multi-device layouts. I’d encourage you to take advantage of these various tools and guides to help you identify potential mobile usability issues. The importance of having a mobile-friendly site is only going to grow, so getting your site up to speed now should be high on your priority list.