The use of mobile devices for web browsing continues to rise, with the majority of websites now seeing a fairly even split between users who have accessed via mobile/tablet as opposed to desktop devices, regardless of the industry they operate in. B2C websites used to see the most mobile traffic due to visits outside of typical working hours, but with more users browsing “on-the-go” or via stationary tablets in the workplace, this is no longer the case. As such, mobile testing and UX has never been more important!
Users expect a mobile version of a website to operate differently than if they’d accessed via a desktop. This is down to a number of factors, including screen size with which to view the website and the time a user is willing to wait for a website to load when they may need the information quickly. Whilst this can cause a headache from a development perspective (as we all still want desktop versions of a website to look great and work well also), there are a number of ways you can effectively test and enhance the website, so it operates well on all platforms.
Test in Beta
The first thing we’d always recommend, especially for a new site launch or a full redesign, is testing it in dev or Beta before opening it to the whole of the web. Allowing a select audience to view and use will make it easier to hone in on, and rectify, errors before they become a problem for a larger range of users.
You can either keep the website in a development environment and grant access via a password protected area or CMS or do a “soft launch” to a Beta set of users – this may still mean giving out login details to prevent it being indexed and accessed by more users and search engines, but takes it away from the development platform. This can make it quicker for users and presents more of a polished version. This can also allow for a client to share it with paying customers as opposed to testers only.
We’d always recommend setting up an area for all users who need access to flag any issues or snags, which can then be sorted into different categories and areas of importance. It’s important that any user accessing in a dev or Beta environment understands this is the case and does not share the details with anyone outside of the chosen testing group.
It’s important not to keep it in dev or Beta for too long, and to keep on top of issues/snags as and when they arise. It may be that not all issues can be resolved before the full launch, but workarounds can be found instead.
This approach to testing can (and should) be carried out for both desktop and mobile users.
Test on a Wide Range of Platforms and OS
There are 2 really popular mobile operating systems; iOS and Android. Smaller user groups will also access the site on systems such as Windows OS and KaiOS.
From there, users across those OS platforms will then use different browsers, depending on their OS and the apps they use, such as Chrome Mobile, Safari, Opera, Firefox and Samsung Browser. Some apps also contain their own browser for when users click on a shared link, such as the Facebook browser, which people largely ignore but is effective for browsing the web within the Facebook app.
When you put all of this together, there are a number of different configurations that your mobile site can be accessed by; users on either platform then using a range of different browsers. As such, testing on as many Operating Systems and mobile browsers as possible is essential.
As above, you can also do this in a Beta or dev environment, choosing your user group for testing by OS first, and then specifying which mobile browsers should be used.
Use Google Tools
Google has a wide range of free tools to aid mobile site performance, which you should use to firstly check that the website is classed as mobile friendly by GoogleBot, and then to enhance its performance where possible (especially site speed, as this is a common sticking factor for mobile sites).
Much as none of us like to be beholden to the tech giant, those tools are there for a reason and if you ignore them, you are likely to see your website suffer in the search results. Google started indexing Mobile sites first back in March 2018, which for the user doesn’t mean a lot but for site owners, marketers and developers, means that Google will index the mobile site first and rank it accordingly, with the desktop version being accessed second. This was a huge shake up at the time as desktop sites had always come first, with their ranking being done on the weight of desktop performance. this change was Google’s confirmation that the majority of users are now accessing via mobile devices over desktop, and the mobile search results should reflect this.
The most popular/useful Google tools to assess and hone mobile performance are:
- Mobile Site Speed
- PageSpeed Insights
- Mobile Friendly Checker
- Google Search Console
- Google Analytics