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Google Helping Developers Make Their Websites Mobile-Friendly

New recommendations help businesses streamline their mobile Web pages so that they load faster and perform better for mobile users.

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Google has added new recommendations to help businesses streamline their mobile Web pages so that they load faster and perform better for mobile users, which can in turn help businesses increase their mobile transactions and sales.

The improvements are being made through Google's recent updates to its PageSpeed Insights tools for developers, which allow them to see how their pages are performing for customers, according Matthew Steele and Doantam Phan of the PageSpeed Insights team, in a May 19 post on the Google Webmaster Central Blog. One of the key updates is the inclusion of additional recommendations for mobile usability improvements.

"Poor usability can diminish the benefits of a fast page load," wrote Steele and Phan. "We know the average mobile page takes more than 7 seconds to load, and by using the PageSpeed Insights tool and following its speed recommendations, you can make your page load much faster. But suppose your fast mobile site loads in just 2 seconds instead of 7 seconds. If mobile users still have to spend another 5 seconds once the page loads to pinch-zoom and scroll the screen before they can start reading the text and interacting with the page, then that site isn't really fast to use after all. PageSpeed Insights' new User Experience rules can help you find and fix these usability issues."

To improve page loading further, the additional recommendations include the need to configure the viewport, they wrote. "Without a meta-viewport tag, modern mobile browsers will assume your page is not mobile-friendly, and will fall back to a desktop viewport and possibly apply font-boosting, interfering with your intended page layout," they wrote. "Configuring the viewport to width=device-width should be your first step in mobilizing your site."

Also important is the need to size the content you wish to display to the size of the viewport, wrote Steele and Phan. "Users expect mobile sites to scroll vertically, not horizontally. Once you've configured your viewport, make sure your page content fits the width of that viewport, keeping in mind that not all mobile devices are the same width."

In addition, Web page developers should be sure to use legible font sizes for mobile users. "If users have to zoom in just to be able to read your article text on their smartphone screen, then your site isn't mobile-friendly," they wrote. "PageSpeed Insights checks that your site's text is large enough for most users to read comfortably."

Web designers should also be sure to size all tap targets on a page appropriately so users can navigate the mobile site easily, they wrote. "Nothing's more frustrating than trying to tap a button or link on a phone or tablet touchscreen, and accidentally hitting the wrong one because your finger pad is much bigger than a desktop mouse cursor. Make sure that your mobile site's touchscreen tap targets are large enough to press easily."

Page designers should also be sure that they avoid plug-ins for mobile sites because they are typically unwieldy for mobile users. "Most smartphones don't support Flash or other browser plugins, so make sure your mobile site doesn't rely on plugins," Steele and Phan wrote.

In December 2013, Google introduced a checklist for mobile developers to help guide them in building better mobile-friendly Web pages.