What Google’s New Mobile Usability Errors Mean and why they Matter

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Google has announced that it has added a Mobile Usability feature to Webmaster Tools. This means that from now on, you’ll be able to see how mobile friendly your website is and whether or not there are specific things you can change to make your site more effective on smartphones and tablets.

 

The new feature displays five different potential mobile website issues and tells you how many pages on your site have the error. What do these errors mean and why do they matter?

1 – Viewpoint not Configured

What it Means

 

Your pages need to include a meta viewpoint that tells a mobile browser how to display the page’s dimensions and scaling. This error means the page is missing this element.

 

Why it Matters

 

Pages that aren’t responsive to mobile devices don’t display correctly on small screens. Dimensions, scaling and other elements are off and the page doesn’t look good and is hard to use, which will drive visitors away.

2 – Touch Elements too Close

What it Means

 

This error means that things like buttons, links, tabs and other elements a user is supposed to be able to tap on are too close to each other.

 

Why it Matters

 

If touch elements are too close together, they won’t work properly. Users won’t be able to accurately tap the buttons and links they want and navigating your site will be next to impossible. This means people will likely leave your site simply because they can’t use it.

3 – Small Font Size

What it Means

 

If your pages have the “small font size” error, it means that the fonts are too small to be effective on mobile devices. This error is self explanatory, but it does help you catch pages that have small fonts that slip through the cracks.

 

Why it Matters

 

This is another problem that makes your site hard to use. If the content, links, information and menus are so tiny that users can’t read them, let alone interact with them from their smartphones or tablets, your site will be extremely hard for people to navigate and use. This will hinder your ability to encourage people to respond to your calls to action.

4 – Flash Usage

What it Means

 

This error simply means the page includes Flash elements, which aren’t very mobile friendly. Flash also can’t be read by search engines, so it’s not ideal for search engine optimisation efforts either.

 

Why it Matters

 

If your mobile pages include Flash elements, they won’t look very good. Flash doesn’t translate well to mobile browsers, and if you use it you risk creating a negative user experience for your customers. Go without the Flash and use images, HTML5 and other site design options that are more mobile friendly instead.

5 – Content not Sized to Viewpoint

What it Means

 

This error means the page is set up in such a way that it requires visitors to scroll horizontally. This could be due to things like fixed-width elements and reliance on a specific viewpoint, among other issues.

 

Why it Matters

 

Scrolling horizontally on a small screen makes everything harder. If your users have to scroll up and down, right to left and zoom in and out to use your website, it’s not optimised for mobile. Having to do this is frustrating and many visitors won’t be able to use your site well and will even give up and click “back.”

 

This addition to Google Webmaster Tools will make it easier to make sure your website and all its pages are mobile friendly so your visitors will have a great experience no matter what kind of device they are using.

 

You can find out more about this feature, and how to address the issues, on the Google Webmaster Central Blog.