Peter VanRysdam / Design / June 9th, 2014

Make Your Site Responsive or Prepare for Public Google Shaming

If you’re site isn’t responsive, things could get bad for you soon. We’ve tried to tell you nicely. First we showed you how we were going responsive on all of our new sites. When you didn’t listen, we tried to simply introduce you to responsive design. When that proved too subtle, we told you why you needed to go responsive. Well now Google is laying down the law, which may end up resulting in actual consequences for old-fashioned mobile-only versions of websites (besides the existing consequences of a poor user experience). In a post earlier this week aptly titled “Directing smartphone users to the page they actually wanted,” Google warned webmasters that they would be flagging websites that aren’t properly setup to handle mobile visitors and would alert the end user about the possible issue. Here’s the scenario: You are searching for a recipe for peach cobbler because, obviously. The first site listed has a great recipe on their site, however it isn’t on one of the pages that’s optimized for mobile. Instead, when you click the link expecting peachy goodness, you are redirected to the home page with no idea why you got there, no link to the recipe you wanted, and no idea what to do with your peaches and brown sugar. If Google sees that might happen, it will alert the user with a message like this:

example of a bad mobile redirect
An example of a bad mobile redirect.

That’s basically a big sign saying “don’t click here if you want to see what you’re looking for.” Not good. And the assumption is, based on Google’s MO for these kinds of things, is that this is only the first step. The obvious next step would be for Google to lower the search rankings of these sites. Even worse. And that’s where responsive comes in. If you’re not familiar with the term, it is a method of developing a website that tailors the experience to different size browsers. The full site is shown on a regular computer, however if the site detects the browser width is under a certain number of pixels, it rearranges things to properly fit. You can set as many separate criteria as you want to allow for desktops, tablets, phablets, phones, and whatever new form factor will come next. It’s essentially the middle ground between trying to view a desktop optimized website on a phone and getting only a stripped-down mobile version of a site. The great part for you as the webmaster is you only have to update things in one place. No more changing content in two places. And no more poor user experiences for your visitors. While you can retrofit a website to make it responsive, it’s more efficient to put in the extra effort at the time of development. Check out the resources I linked to above for some best practices from our crack design and user experience team, and get to work on making your site work for your customers on the go! download audit guide

  • Christopher Burns

    So glad Google is going to save us from those sites. Another annoying one is Amazon. Someone sends me a link to a product from their phone…when I open it on my computer, I see the mobile version instead of the desktop version. For shame Amazon!

  • Christopher Burns

    So glad Google is going to save us from those sites. Another annoying one is Amazon. Someone sends me a link to a product from their phone…when I open it on my computer, I see the mobile version instead of the desktop version. For shame Amazon!

  • Mike

    Between this and Google asking some users to rank their satisfaction with search results, I think we’re going to see more and more sites getting dinged for delivering poor mobile experience.