17/05/2016

Mobilegeddon one year on: What’s changed?

BY Mike Riches

Around this time last year (April 21 2015 to be exact) Google updated their algorithm to consider a site’s mobile-friendliness when returning suggestions to search queries. This was dubbed ‘Mobilegeddon’ by someone and forced a lot of companies to reconsider and redesign their digital platforms.

For many consumer and ecommerce businesses, responsive web design really was old news as people had been increasingly using their smartphones for browsing and buying (in fact, since Leicester City were last in League One – circa 2009!).

But for businesses with corporate and non-transactional sites, the need was not so immediate and the tide of mobile friendly website design and improvements in user experience swept past leaving many websites untouched.

Would the threat of search engine exile from the all powerful Google convince these businesses to embrace the mobile internet?

No is the short answer. Here is the longer one:

Google has a concise bank of knowledge and tools on responsive web design including a mobile friendly test which is worth looking at if you want to find out more about the mechanics and implications of making a website responsive. It will be looking at the motivations and rewards for businesses who have made the leap and the reasons keeping those who have not firmly rooted in the past.

Having recently undertaken a study of all the constituent websites in the FTSE 250 for another piece of work (watch this space) I found that 84 of the 250 did not have mobile friendly websites. That’s 34% of some of the wealthiest and influential companies in the UK continuing to ignore the clear technical and cultural shift towards mobile internet.

Of course there have been a number of constituents who have invested in upgrading their digital offering, including The Restaurant Group PLC, Euromoney PLC and Workspace Group PLC Gather delivering brand, digital strategy, UX, structure and design for the latter.

It was surprising to see however that household brands such as Debenhams, Tate & Lyle and WH Smith were amongst the large group of brands still relying on old, outdated technologies to communicate to their investors and the City.

And this might be the problem.

Corporate and investor websites aim to communicate to investors and the City. Brands are fully aware that this audience is unlikely to make a financial decision based on a brand’s website design which could be why they are one of the last sectors to embrace the shift in web-design.

Appearing number one on Google is also not at the top of these brands’ priority list when it comes to their corporate site. Again, investors will not be making financial decisions based on SEO which is why ‘Mobilegeddon’ had little impact on this sector.

It is a fact however, that around 60% of all Internet access is on mobiles and tablets and 40% of smartphone and tablet owners use these devices for business. It would be wrong to think that users are not trying to access these sites from mobile and ignorant to think that this number will not increase.

Amongst these technical and incidental factors lies the emotional aspect of brand and how you want your business to be perceived. A corporate website is arguably the single most concise collection of information about a brand, including their values and objectives. In this sense, a clearly outdated website speaks volumes.

As designers we create devices that solve problems. The problem here is that the devices currently used to present information are out of date with current technologies and no longer provide a good user experience.