As you may have heard, last week Google rolled out the latest tweak to their ranking algorithm. The search giant now prioritises responsive or mobile-friendly websites in their search results, for users on mobile devices. Or, to put it another way, if your site isn’t responsive, your ranking just got worse.
This is a welcome move by Google – if (like me and supposedly 50% of the world’s internet users) you do the majority of your web browsing on a phone or tablet, a responsive site will almost always be preferable to a non-responsive one. Google have been highlighting sites as “mobile-friendly” in their results since 2014, but this is the first time that ranking will be affected.
For many organisations, maintaining a high Google ranking is a vital part of their business – witness the huge industry that has grown up around SEO in the last decade or so – so we expect many more organisations to ‘go responsive’ in the near future.
Mobile web use is steadily increasing, with little sign of slowing down. It’s been widely reported that 2014 was the point when mobile overtook desktop, otherwise known as the ‘mobile moment’. While not all sources agree on this (see our own blog post on the subject, for example), it’s clear that we are ever more in love with our smartphones.
The jury’s still out on whether mobiles will eventually eclipse desktop browsing entirely, or whether the two will live in harmony – or maybe new platforms like TV and smartwatches will shake things up further. The prospect of browsing a website on an Apple Watch isn’t exactly enticing, but consider Siri and her (his? its?) descendants: browsers in their own right; often able to operate entirely by voice, with no screen required; fetching snippets of information for you on request. From this view, it’s clear that the web is less about designing a site which looks pretty on a PC monitor or smartphone, and more about making content available to anyone (or anything) who wants it. After all, the web wants to be responsive.