Optimise the Web for everyone

Posted by Jake on 20 June
Jake

A few months ago Google made a major step in the right direction in the way it handles search rankings. They made public that their super secret search algorithm would now take into account the “mobile friendliness” of your site and give it a lower search ranking if it didn't tick all the boxes. This could potentially cost you or your clients large amounts of revenue.

What Google have done is make “mobile friendliness” more main stream, which is great to give the slow movers a kick in the backside. But in today's landscape, there is so much more we should be doing to provide our users with a better experience.

The key areas being:

  • Mobile friendly
  • Security
  • Reach
  • Performance
  • Accessibility

Mobile friendly

With over 6 years of experience in web development, this is without a doubt the biggest shift I have seen. Once upon a time it was all about 960px, but these days if you are not taking a mobile first approach, it is probably a good time to rethink your processes.

Taking a mobile first approach begins at the content level of a site and bubbles up through the design and development phases.

Mobile friendly should be your default, not an afterthought.

Security

With all the recent hype around the “mobile friendliness”, you may of missed that making your site ‘HTTPS’ will also help increase your SEO according to a recent post from Google.

Putting aside 30 minutes to setup and install a SSL certificate will not only make your site more secure, it has the potential to give you a greater audience and an increase in revenue.

Reach

Just because you have a top of the range iPhone 6 with a rock solid 4G connection doesn’t mean your users are in the same boat.

Various studies by the likes of The Guardian and CNN make it a no brainer to design and develop your sites with reach in mind. If you are not optimising your site for everyone, you are losing potential clients.

What happens if a potential client is on holiday in Kenya using an old borrowed phone on a bad connection to view your site? Some food for thought….

Performance

The size of web pages since 2010 is astronomical. Reports show that the average web page has nearly doubled in the time. This is not a good thing. Thankfully, we can put in a few processes to make sure we are not contributing to this.

During development, utilising applications like Calibre and WebPageTest are critical. These applications give us real time feedback on page weight and great insights into how we can keep things lean.

Another thing that is worth considering is creating a performance budget. Tim Kadlec explains this really well, but the underlying idea is set a limit to your assets and load times to make sure all design and implementation decisions adhere to the end goal. It’s not rocket science, but if you get your content in front of users quicker, there is a higher chance of increasing revenue.

To reinforce that performance is an extremely important aspect Tim also built a website, What Does My Site Cost, that calculates the cost of using sites in different regions throughout the world.

Being focused on performance when scope creep is inevitable, it is always good to keep in mind that “more weight doesn’t mean more wait”. We, as developer, just need to utilise some smart implementation skills.

If the above words aren't enough to make you take performance seriously, maybe it is a good idea to read one of the many studies about page load time drastically increasing conversions.

Accessibility

This key factor is tightly coupled to reach. We, as developers, should always be striving to enable websites to be usable by people of all abilities and disabilities.

Building accessible sites can be daunting and overwhelming, but once you take the time to learn and understand what is needed, the web as a whole becomes a better place.

If you don’t know where to start when it comes to accessibility, The Accessibility Project is a great first stop. It is a community-driven effort, which hosts an amazing amount of resources. Also, if you happen to be a designer, this post by Jesse Hausler covers seven very important tips.

Wrapping things up

Optimising for everyone is the way of the future. With a little education and process modifications, your sites will become better, your users will be happy and you will have more clients. It is a no brainer.

Topics: Mobile