The IT industry has always evolved at a fast pace, and never more so than in recent years with the massive expansion of mobile computing as a part of everyday life.
I can remember over 20 years ago when the internet was predominantly text documents and grainy images delivered via a 9.9k analogue modem. Back in those days I'd speak to businesses about getting websites and they had absolutely no idea of what the internet was. Many dismissed it as a passing craze, but by the late 90's people had realised how important it really was. Which then brought about the dotcom boom!
After that point the technology obviously became more sophisticated, but every week I'd read about "the next big thing" that was going to change everything. In most cases they came and went, never even causing a ripple on the surface. So I began to get cynical.....to the point that any potential initiative was viewed as the latest internet fad. Without realising it, I became resistant to change. That's a bad move in this industry, and I'll give you an example of when I made the wrong call. It was a howler!
In 2006 as FaceBook started gaining momentum, and a year or two later when Twitter came along......I dismissed them both.
In my defence I had lived through the rise and fall of Yahoo Geocities and MySpace, so I had solid reasons to be sceptical.
My non-involvement and total dismissal of these initiatives continued until 2011. Then it hit me that these types of Social Media were not going to disappear as their predecessors had done.....in fact they had turned into massive platforms for business initiatives!
I looked carefully, saw a big game going on......and we weren't in it. All our competitors were highly active with huge followings.....but we didn't even exist.
For the next two years we focussed on clawing back the deficit caused by those wasted years where I'd got cynical, complacent, and resistant to change. I learned from that though.....now I embrace every new initiative at the outset. Because if you don't, you could end up outside looking in.
Consequently, when the mobile computing boom came along (which was the biggest ever gamechanger), we jumped on it straight away. In fact at one point in early 2013 we were the only designer in Google's top ten to be mobile compatible, as I wasn't going to make another gaff like the Social Media fiasco.
I think that as we get older we become less accepting of change, and I'm sure there was an element of this involved when I made the wrong call on Social Media. I fell into the trap of thinking that if something has always worked well on the current business model that's being employed.....then why change?
But in business terms that's a dangerous way of thinking, because invariably the business scenario around us is changing and evolving all the time. It's a case of the game keeps changing, and unless you move with those changes then ultimately you could find that you're no longer part of the game.
As I've said in previous articles, Social Media is very important, but mobile compatibility is critical!
This is not something in the future.....it's right here, right now! The future is now upon us.....and it's called Mobile Computing! Are you a part of it?
Google's designated cut-off day of 21st April for the de-listing of non-mobile compatible sites (Mobilegeddon) has come and gone. At this time it's still too soon to see any visible changes because of the millions of sites out there that need to be re-assessed.
The feedback that we've received because of Google's new stipulations is understandably not positive. After all, why should anybody be forced into making this upgrade by a third party? And I totally agree in terms of principle.....however, there is another side to this that I'd like you to consider.
Google are a massive company, and they didn't achieve that position without making some smart business decisions. Like any company their underlying motive is profit, but over the years their vision and initiatives have made huge improvements to the online experience.....GMail being just one of them.
This change in policy regarding mobile sites is not something they've just dreamt up to flex their online muscle. It's driven by consumer demand for using mobile devices......and that means all of you who have smartphones, IPads etc.
Latest figures show that consumers are interacting with websites via their mobile device 64% of the time, and that mobile searches now account for 67% of Internet traffic.
So whether you know it or not, you have already missed out on business over the last year by not offering potential customers the optimal user experience on mobiles. In light of that, my view is not to look at it as losing business from 21st April.....but to approach it as an opportunity to gain business by reaching a wider target market.
Google have established that we want to use mobile devices, and in order to give us the best possible user experience they have made these changes. But what I would emphasise is that Google are not forcing people to make these changes......people have forced Google to take this step simply because they wanted to use mobile devices.
Over the last few months I've received e-mails from some businesses complaining about Google's de-listing of non-mobile sites. However, to add a surreal element to the situation, their messages were actually displaying "Sent from My IPad" etc in the signature field.
So the ones who were the least enthusiastic about the era of mobile internet usage......were the ones who had actually embraced this technology themselves! The reality is that I have no connection with Google whatsoever, and, even more surprising is the fact that I don't even own a smartphone!
And that pretty much illustrates the irony of Mobilegeddon......because Google are simply giving people what they wanted.
Remember this date: 21st April 2015. Because this is the day where Google search results are going to change forever! They could change for the better for you....or they could change for the worse!
This is the day that Google have now announced will be the launch of their new search engine evaluation algorithm! And it's the one that we've been warning everybody about for 6 months......where Google start dropping non-mobile compatible sites from their listings. For the official announcement just check Google's Webmaster Central Blog.
The announcement is fairly self explanatory on Webmaster Central. It's a huge revision of their system, and there's going to be a lot of sites adversely affected. However, if you have a mobile responsive site then you don't need to do anything, because you have exactly what Google expects to see.
But if you have an older site that isn't mobile responsive, then it seems that your rankings are going to drop quite dramatically. This will bring about a knock-on effect of less visitors, less leads, and less sales. The only way to avoid this scenario is to get a mobile compatible site in place by this date. And then of course you'll get the benefit of the ranking increase.
Why is this happening? As we've stated before, Google wants to provide it's users with the best possible results. And if your site will not display properly on a mobile device, then Google recommending sites of this type is totally at odds with it's stated objective.
Why is mobile viewing so important? Would it surprise you to know that in 2014, internet searches made on mobile devices were actually higher than those on desktop PCs! This had never happened before, and estimates suggest that this pattern is going to keep increasing dramatically year on year. Some have even suggested that it's going to lead to the demise of the desktop PC, except within office locations. Which ironically is the environment that they were originally designed for, prior to the home computer boom in the mid 90's.
So whether we like it or not, this is the age of mobile computing. And if you're not reaching that market with your products or services, it's not a good longterm scenario for any business. The countdown is on, and 21st April is getting closer! If the rankings of a non mobile friendly website start to fall, its probably down to one thing – Google’s latest algorithm update!
It's a fact of life that whether we like it or not, time moves on for all of us! Particularly within the IT industry, with so many new innovations occurring on a regular basis!
As a consequence of this ever changing environment, a question that I sometimes get asked is "How long should a website last?"
Unfortunately there's no simple answer to this one, because there are many contributing factors that can influence longevity.....most of which are beyond our control. I'm referring to factors such as discontinued software applications for sites, and vulnerable server software being withdrawn. Then there's new technologies that emerge......a typical example of that being mobile responsive websites.
However, I'm going to give you the main reasons for upgrading your website software, and hopefully give you an approximate timescale for when I'd consider it necessary.
The main reason for upgrading, and by a very wide margin, is security!
Cyber crime is rampant! But it's not just cyber criminals that an online business needs to worry about.....it's vandals! In fact, these are your biggest threat. Just the same as if they broke your shop window or daubed graffiti on your walls, they'd love nothing better than to trash your website. It's a game to them!
Did you know that there are sites out there that actually organise competitions for members whereby they score points by defacing sites? And they always leave a calling card on your site (sometimes not very pleasant) in order to identify themselves so they can rack up points in the game.
Eventually, vulnerabilities that initially could only be accessed by the elite few will be accessible to even the novices. Very often via user-friendly interfaces, and even guided by online tutorials! It's one of the reasons why software keeps moving on in terms of older, vulnerable applications being withdrawn and newer versions being introduced to replace them. While no application can be guaranteed free of security flaws forever, newer systems are all coded with the knowledge of past vulnerabilities in mind, and patched accordingly.
We've always taken security on the servers very seriously, and the trigger for it to activate is very slight. But if a vulnerability exists in an application that allows a third party to infiltrate your site by simply walking in without raising the alarm, then none of these measures are going to take effect. Given a long enough timeframe, intrusion is guaranteed. So security must always be paramount in your planning.
Of course there are other reasons for upgrading your website. These would include embracing new technology. A typical example would be mobile responsive websites, which has been the most significant technical advancement in the past 10 years. This is the one that's changed the game totally.
Or maybe your competitors have recently taken a major initiative in revamping their web presence, and you're now looking like the poor relation? If that's the case, then it could be the time to consider upgrading.
Has your business switched direction? Or have you changed your marketing strategy? If so, then it may be time to change your website to match the new focus!
Perception! As the years pass, your site will look more and more outdated. And so will potential clients' perception of you. Essentially, you will not be giving them the confidence to use your services.
All of these are valid reasons to consider upgrading......but the security aspect is by far the most important!
As for the life of a site.....in principle it could run forever if you can find a webhost that will run obsolete server software indefinitely! Plus you'd need to be totally invisible to potential hackers of course.
In reality, neither of those scenarios are going to be very likely, so I'd say around 3 to 4 years before you'd need to think about replacing your existing site. If not for functionality and appearance, then most definitely for security reasons because you may well be vulnerable by that time.
But whatever your reason for considering an upgrade, you'll still get the benefits of all of the aspects! Plus you'll have the peace of mind of knowing that your site is looking modern and attractive to potential clients, while being as safe and secure as possible.
Some months ago we discussed the importance of having a mobile responsive website because it's estimated that around 40% of your potential visitors now connect via smartphones and tablets.
At that time we speculated on whether Google would be adjusting it's search and indexing criteria to highlight those sites that conform to this latest technology. Google wants to deliver the best results to it's users when they do a search, so they have now put new measures into place to identify the mobile and non-mobile compatible sites on their search results.
On September 30, Google began testing new mobile-friendly icons. When a user performed a search on a mobile device, a small green mobile-friendly icon would appear on sites that were mobile-friendly.
Then on October 13, they changed their methodology by displaying non-mobile-friendly icons which were grey cell phones with lines through them indicating incompatibility.
On October 14, there was yet another change in methodology. This time, sites that appeared in search results on mobile devices that were deemed mobile-friendly were accompanied by the words “Mobile-friendly” in grey.
We're now at the stage where the user is easily able to identify whether a site is mobile friendly or not. Obviously they still have the choice as to whether they want to continue or not......however, they may not have that choice much longer!
Because continuing along the theme of Google wanting to deliver the best search results to users, it's now a distinct possibility that sites that are not mobile responsive will end up being displayed much lower in the search results. Google wants to show a list of the best options that people can visit.....not a list of options that they can't. So the feeling in the industry is that this is just a matter of time.
Google has made no secret over it's push towards mobile computing over the last year, but they never tell people exactly what they intend to do to implement these measures. It's just a matter of wait and see how far they will take it. Unfortunately, the "wait and see" option could well mean that non-mobile responsive sites will disappear from the main Google search results until such time as they comply with Google's vision of how the internet should be.
In only a few months they've moved from highlighting mobile compatibility to potentially punishing non-mobile compatibility. How far will it go? With Google profits soaring with their Android operating system on smartphones, tablets, and ChromeBooks, this seems to be just the start!
This is a very different Internet compared to only a few years ago, and irrespective of whether we like it or not, Google are in the driving seat! Just make sure that you're not left "outside looking in".
For mobile compatible websites in Spain, WebSpain have the solution!
Mobile compatibility is critical today, as up to 40% of your site visitors are likely to be using smartphones and tablets. In fact, it is estimated that by the end of 2014 there will be 1.75 billion smartphone users in the world. Google wants to deliver the best results to it's users when they do a search, so they have announced what is essentially a name and shame program for websites with aging technology. These would include websites that are not mobile responsive, and sites that use Flash in their content.
This system is implemented by giving warnings to users that the site they are intending to visit is not suitable for mobile devices. The average user when seeing this warning is just going to go elsewhere.....so Google are making things very difficult for businesses that are still running on old software. If your current site is not mobile responsive and/or uses Flash, you're at a big disadvantage.....because potentially you're going to be losing a lot of traffic. Which means that business opportunities are going to be lost, and your bottom line is going to be affected!
So what is mobile responsive? Basically, a mobile responsive website automatically changes to fit the device you’re using by adapting the view to the size of screen that you have. Typically, there are four general screen sizes that responsive design has been aimed at: the widescreen desktop monitor, the smaller desktop and laptop, the tablet, and the mobile phone. So whatever size screen you're using you get perfect results without having to zoom in and out or scroll from left to right. It makes things easy for the user, and if you make things easy for your potential clients while your competitors don't, then you're in a strong position to drive your business forward.
All of our websites since early 2013 have been built using mobile responsive technology, because we could see the way that things were going to go. Now that Google has implemented this warning system, it's not a situation you can ignore if your business is important to you.
However, there's no need to miss opportunities and lose potential business! Because you could have a modern, mobile compatible site for a lot less than you might think! And the peace of mind that comes from working with WebSpain is priceless!