Today, Google announced that mobile-first indexing will now be the default for all new web domains as of July 1, 2019.
What does this mean? Well, it means if you're planning a new venture with a brand new website then that website must adopt mobile website design standards or it may simply never rank on Google!
Google have been pushing mobile website design as the default / industry standard since all the way back in 2015 when they revealed that the majority of users searched from a mobile device. For Google, delivering results that were compatible with the device that their customers was using is paramount and so the great "mobile apocalypse" began. It was the first time for many web designers that Google had issued explicit guidelines on what they were looking for and warned of the potentially dire consequences of not being compliant. It caused a huge stir in the web design and web development community with small agencies and big brands alike all scrambling to ensure their sites, and clients, were up to date.
Like many a forewarned apocalypse, nothing much happened in the end. Google slowed down the rollout of it's mobile first index and only recently confirmed that this was now finally the default index.
With this latest move, Google seem to be trying to remind us all that mobile website design is the required standard by stating that new domains (e.g. newly registered domains) will be indexed for mobile first before any considerations for desktops or other devices.
What should you be doing about mobile website design?
You don't have to be a new website owner for mobile website design to have an impact. Whatever the age of your website it's more than likely that a significant chunk of your website traffic is coming from mobile devices or tablets. So, if you're not 100% sure that your website is mobile ready, it's best to test.
Google offer a free testing service at https://search.google.com/test/mobile-friendly that you can use to test your website.
Here's a tip: Just because your website looks mobile ready, doesn't mean it is. Many websites using "responsive" design, e.g. websites that change size and shape to try and match the device that they are being used on, still fall short of a few key benchmarks.
Mobile Website Design and Usability
Screen resolutions might be ever increasing, but the size of human fingers is pretty much the same. So, if you're putting together a mobile website it's important to remember that your user interface is going to have to be spaced out and large enough for a human being to use with their finger. Many responsive websites fall foul of not increasing the space between buttons and not increasing the size of controls to match the mobile user's requirements.
Think about it - you want your customer to click a button. Give them a button big enough to click!
Mobile Website Design and Speed
Another key consideration when thinking about mobile website design is the impact that website speed has on the mobile browsing experience.
You can test the speed of your website as experienced by a mobile user using this free tool from Google - https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/feature/testmysite
All web users are impatient (you're probably even hoping this article ends soon!) so ensuring that your website loads as quickly as possible even on a weak mobile data connection can make a huge difference not only to your SEO (Google have been open that website speed affects ranking) but also the performance of your website in terms of converting visitors into customers.
The future of mobile website design
There's no sign that we are ever going to put our mobile phones down, so accepting that the future of your website is as a mobile website is paramount. As glorious as it may look on your 4K boardroom TV, it's going to be shrunk down and in the palm of a user's hand for the vast majority of the time.
But still, think about that - your business can be literally in your customer's (or potential customer's) hand. What better place to be? Make your mobile website design a priority today and ensure that you are thinking "mobile first" about every single design decision you make.