How mobile is your website?

Cynthia CloskeyGeneral

Have you looked at your website on a smartphone or a tablet? How does it look?

It might be that you can see the whole of your site, with the logo and all the home page images visible, all shrunk down to fit the little screen. And maybe when you see this, you think, “It’s all there. It’s fine!”

But is it fine? Can you use the menu to get to other pages? Can you read what’s on the site? Can you find an address, or phone number, or some way to get in touch?

And how long did that page take to load, anyway?

For a website to be usable on a phone or tablet, it needs to work well. It doesn’t need to look exactly the same as it does on a desktop or laptop computer; in fact, it’s probably going to have to look a little different, just because of how the screen sizes and shapes differ.

And just because a site looks OK on one smartphone doesn’t mean it will look good on others.

BigBigDesign.com on an iPhone 3 or 4, according to ResponsinatorOne useful tool for exploring how websites look on various mobile browsers is the Responsinator site, which emulates many popular mobile screens (and some less popular ones). Go to http://www.responsinator.com/ and type a web address into the field at the very top, and you’ll see how it renders on different screen sizes. You can even scroll within the emulated devices to check out other pages and to see how menus work.

Some smartphone behavior doesn’t work the same in the Responsinator as it would on the actual device, if the website uses device detection scripts to modify its behavior. But this gives a partial sense of how a site behaves on smaller screens.

Being able to adjust to screen size is only part of what a website needs to be mobile-friendly. Phones rely on cellphone and data networks that can be slow or unreliable, so a site should be careful about overtaxing them.

Google offers PageSpeed Tools for testing a website to see how long it takes to load and where its bottlenecks or resource drains are. PageSpeed Tools is aimed more at web developers than at the average website or blog owner. But it can give you a heads-up if something is really bogging your site down, both for mobile devices and for desktop visitors.

Knowing there’s a problem is one thing; knowing how to fix it is another. In an upcoming post I’ll talk about options for making your website mobile — from adding a mobile alternative to redesigning with mobile devices in mind.

Photo credit for cover image: Dru Bloomfield on Flickr