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Technology / Website design

Mobile musings: the Google, the Bad and the Ugly

If you're currently wondering where to start when it comes to keeping Google (and rest of the world!) happy with your business website, come see what we've learned over recent months.

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By now, you all know the big G (that’s Google) has called time on websites that, when viewed on a device, are simply smaller versions of what’s seen on a big screen. All because mobile is increasingly becoming the way we consume the internet.

Flying Solo’s stats are proof of this changing landscape. Four years ago, about 5% of visitors came from a mobile device. Fast forward to May 2015, and that number is 35% and growing. Yet up until last week, our mobile web presence brought tears to my eyes, and not in a good way.

Our site needed dramatic simplifying in order to be mobile friendly. It wasn’t an easy process, but through the months of suffering I held fast to the writer’s adage: “This will make a useful story.”

So now it’s time for that useful story. If you too need to scale down to stay friends with Google, here are three things we learned that you might want to keep in mind:

Understand that subtraction is iteration too

Add-ons, plug-ins, bells and whistles: when you build a website, you have so many options it’s easy to end up with the equivalent of Homer Simpson’s car of the future. But the world’s most successful sites are full of white space. Full of it! Think Apple. Mashable. And the big G itself. Busy websites now look dated so sticking with a ‘less is more’ philosophy will serve you best.

"Four years ago, about 5% of visitors came from a mobile device. Fast forward to May 2015, and that number is 35% and growing. "

Get ready to kill your young

If you’re starting with an existing site, chances are you’re going to have to roll up your sleeves and start feature-chopping. I know how painful this can be! Our new website required we cut a swathe through the old site, which had become very cluttered over the years. We had to pay thorough attention to each and every element and ask ‘do we have to have this?’ Losing features we were fond of was painful (but necessary) and we didn’t always agree about what should stay and what should go. At these times, the good old two-out-of-three rule won out (a rule that found Peter consistently making the call!). If you can’t decide what to omit, seek the opinion of a trusted friend or customer.

Edit your posts

Google’s decision is a big win for lovers of simplicity. But a clean looking site can jar against long-winded, poorly presented posts. So if you do any kind of writing for your website, it is my highest recommendation that you have that writing edited.

I am such a strong believer in the power of editing and have never seen a piece of written work that hasn’t been improved by a second pair of eyes and a red pen (this piece is no exception). You need not necessarily involve another person: sleeping on it and reviewing the next day is a great method for the cash or time poor.

Whether you go from 600 to 450 words, or 2,000 to 1,600, a well-edited piece of work shows respect for your audience and for the idea you’re trying to share.

If you’re unsure where to hack away, I’m consistently observing (as are colleagues who’ve held the editing post), that a majority of tidying occurs in the first 30%. So the very beginning is a very good place to start.

For me, all of the above is a reflection that we’re continually marching towards always on-ness, and I feel sad about that. Call me an old duffer, but I try and keep my mobile devices out of arm’s reach at home, and will only use it when out and about. When I realised there were mornings when the first time our young kids saw me, I was on my mobile, I banned them from the bedroom. And they’re also a definite no-no at the table.

This sets a good example to my kids, I reckon, but a good example of what? Someone who belongs in a museum?

What’s your take on the ethics of mobile usage? Is it even a conversation anymore?

Sam Leader

is a former director of Flying Solo and the co-author of Flying Solo - How to go it alone in business.

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