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The New Definition of Mobile-Friendly

2 September 2015 by Alice Cullen

Google has been all about change recently. First it was the new logo, now there’s yet another new definition of what constitutes a ‘mobile friendly’ website. That’s right; Google is changing the rules again.

As of November 1st, sites that bring up app install interstitials that hide a significant amount of content will fail the mobile-friendly test. Basically, what this means is an end to those annoying block ads that tell you to download an app instead of providing the web content you clicked on in the first place. So what does this new development tell us?

For starters, it confirms what most of us probably already knew – mobile optimisation is fast-becoming one of the secrets to search engine success. Back in May, Google proclaimed that more searches take place on mobile than on desktops and laptops. Since then we’ve seen a succession of algorithm changes that have encouraged (more like forced) web developers to make their sites ‘small screen friendly’.

Second, it tells us that there aren’t any shortcuts to mobile optimisation anymore.

Up until now, a way round optimising an entire website was to create an app and get mobile users to access content through that. This meant a decent mobile experience could be provided whilst maintaining a dynamic website for larger screens. Unfortunately, thanks to the new changes, those days are over.


google mobile optimisation

Image from Webmaster post

Yesterday the Google Webmaster blog politely suggested sites remove the app install interstitials and replace them with banners that don’t hide content (as the helpful diagram above explains).

The blog said: “Sometimes a user may tap on a search result on a mobile device and see an app install interstitial that hides a significant amount of content and prompts the user to install an app. Our analysis shows that it is not a good search experience and can be frustrating for users.”

For all you web developers out there, this is means websites will need to be mobile friendly even if there is an available app. As the banner ads don’t hide pages, persuading time-conscious users to click away from visible content just to sit through a download seems like a tall order. The only solution will be to put more time and effort into making sure that your main website comfortably shrinks down onto a four inch screen.

For the time being, it seems that the challenge for developers will be to strike a delicate balance between small-screen accessibility and large-screen functionality. But who knows when or how Google will decide to change the game again?