Improve your mobile UX, before Google decimates your rankings

October 27, 2016
Adam Babajee-Pycroft
Managing Director (UX)
, in
UX Design
hand holding iphone

Is your website ready for the latest seismic shift in search?

Google recently announced a new mobile search index that will take priority over other searches. It means that within just a few months, if your site isn’t mobile-ready, not only will it frustrate your customers; your search rankings will suffer.

The answer? All your content and features need to be available to users, regardless of how they visit. And you need to be making this change now.

What’s it all about?

Google are reacting to a massive change in user behaviour. Over half of all searches online now come from mobile devices and we expect the internet to work in the same way whatever device we’re using. So the search giant is creating an entirely new search index that’s based on how sites behave when viewed on a mobile. That means if you Google something on your phone, you’ll see a different set of results to someone googling the same terms on a laptop or desktop.

This change will take place within a few months, although in typical Google fashion the details of exactly how the new index will work are sketchy. But we do know that it will become the search engine’s primary index, and that it’s likely to be based on what content a site has available for mobile.

At Natural Interaction, where we work every day on optimising sites for mobile, we’re convinced that this is part of a longer-term shift towards Google completely ignoring anything that’s not available on mobile.

So what does that mean for your business? Think for a minute about what’s different about your website when it’s viewed on a mobile. Does the mobile version restrict some content? Are there things users can’t do on your mobile site? If the answers are yes, then you need to be taking action.

Two conflicting approaches to mobile sites

Many businesses have taken steps towards making their websites mobile-friendly. There are two possible approaches – responsive design, that allows the site to change size and shape depending on screen size, and adaptive or dedicated mobile sites which detect the user’s device and show them a separate site designed for mobile.

At the moment, businesses regularly restrict the content and features available on their mobile site. And that means that half of visitors aren’t getting the full picture.



Even big companies are getting it wrong

Even multinational companies regularly mess this up. Try and click through to Ford’s ‘Configure a Car’ feature from Google using a mobile, and you land on a blank page, or if you’re lucky, a desktop-only configurator. Very welcoming!
Try googling British Airways’s baggage allowance policy on your phone and you wind up on a hard-to-navigate desktop site, even though BA have a separate mobile site. Useful!

And good old National Rail has metaphorical leaves on the line when you click through from Google on a mobile to find season ticket prices. The mobile homepage doesn’t show season ticket prices. Handy!


So why does it matter?

We hope we’ve already answered this question by pointing out that around half of the traffic to your site will be coming via mobile. But here are a few more reasons this is a hot problem that businesses need to sort.

Think about the last time you made a significant purchase online. It’s pretty likely that you searched for the item on your smartphone before switching to another device to buy it. In fact, 67% of users navigate between multiple devices before making an online transaction. It’s clear how important a consistent cross-device customer journey is when such a high proportion of users are navigating your site across different devices even in the course of a single transaction.

And how often do you click a Google search result only to be taken to a page that’s impossible to read on a mobile because it’s too big or won’t load? It’s frustrating, and 48% of users hate it when it happens.

And lastly, we all know that these days a strong online presence is driven by content. But what’s the point of investing in content if you’re going to hide it from 65% of users?

So what’s the solution?

It’s not good enough these days to say, “but no one will want to do that on their mobile”. The stats prove that we want to do everything on our mobiles, from changing energy providers to writing novels. But mobile information architecture is often seen as a kind of design voodoo – so complex and mysterious that it gets pushed down the priorities list or left off altogether. And when designers are faced with a complex, feature-heavy service like a product configurator, their natural reaction is to take a desktop-first approach, trying to squash their design to fit a smaller screen later on.

Faced with the brave new world of mobile-biased search, we need a whole new attitude and approach to designing complex features and content online.

Here, we start from the basic principal that everything on your site should be available on all devices. That cuts out any hand-wringing over what users might or might not do on their mobile – they can do what they want, how they want, and you’ll be confident it’ll work.

We do this by:

Defining structure from the start

We identify, validate and refine the best structure for your content using techniques like
 before we go anywhere near the technology side of things.


We carry out
to validate new design patterns for multi-level navigation on mobile. That means we’re limited only by our own creativity and technology rather than our preconceptions. If you’ve already validated your structure, you just need to think about how to expose that structure to a user with a small screen.

App inspiration

Apps are great sources of mobile design inspiration because they’re always designed mobile-first. We use lessons from the world of complex app design, imagining how services and sites would work if they were apps and then challenging our design team to apply the same principals to the web.

Want the new Google mobile search index to boost your rankings instead of smashing them?

to find out how we can help.

Adam Babajee-Pycroft

Managing Director (UX)

Our founder Adam has over 13 years of experience in UX. He’s fuelled almost exclusively by coffee (using one of his seven coffee making devices),curry and heavy metal. Before founding Natural Interaction in 2010, Adam managed UX for AXA Life’s UK business. Since then, he’s worked with a range of clients across the automotive, eCommerce and tech startup sectors, delivering impressive results for brands including BMW, Mini, The Consortium and National Trust.

Get in touch

To find out more about how our UX services can help your business, contact Alex now.

Contact us