Is your bank "Mobile-friendly"?

“mobilegeddon” and mobile-friendly banking

Is your bank "Mobile-friendly"?

After many months of fairly public trials to decide the best visual clue to mark sites as “mobile-friendly” in their search results, Google have now taken the inevitable next step of promoting these sites in their algorithms.

With Google enjoying a whopping 88% share of UK searches in 2014, this is yet another incentive for banks and financial services providers to ensure all of their web portfolio is not just mobile friendly, but “mobile-friendly according to Google”.  The search giant have published not only their guidelines for mobile friendliness, but also a useful tool to check the “mobile-friendly” status of a url.

Publisher panic

Some commentators are describing an upcoming “mobilegeddon”, with 40% of sites (including large and small publishers) ranging from unfriendly to downright unpleasant to our trusted smartphones.

Publishers fearing their desktop-led sites will be relegated down the rankings should rest-assured that Google are unlikely to weight this new ranking signal too strongly, at least in the early days.  Google have also stressed that content and relevance will reign supreme over other factors for the near future. 

Google have been unusually public about their “mobile-friendly” approach, with a public blog on their plans in February 2015.  However, those publishers who have been unable or chosen not to implement a suitable a mobile platform before 2015 are also unlikely to do so in 2 months despite the added benefit!

It’s all in the algorithm

While one can grumble about the sponsored adverts and the potentially private data that Google collect, their bread and butter of returning relevant and appropriate search results is rarely questioned.  The power of the search algorithm is immense and it’s this algorithm that has now been tweaked to include the “mobile-friendly” factor.

Now for every rule, there has to be an exception and in the case of mobile friendly search there are two exceptions.  Search results will not be affected on tablet devices nor will paid/sponsored adverts (hardly a surprise).

While Google have been open about their plans to implement this ranking boost, the degree to which mobile-friendly sites will be boosted hasn’t been shared, nor have future plans about how algorithm might reward the friendliest and penalise the least friendly sites.

Let’s be friends – how mobile-friendly is your banks website?

While we judge our choice of personal friends on criteria like honesty, trustworthiness and humour what criteria do Google use to judge how mobile-friendly a website is?  Some guiding principals are summarised here:

Layout – A suitable layout, either responsive, adaptive or optimised is used for mobile devices.  Google are not judging the technology nor the fashion, just the end result.  A good mobile layout will remove the need for 2-dimesional scrolling and the dreaded pinch-zoom.  While these might seem like simple gestures, try a one-handed login into your banks very unfriendly desktop portal on a 4-inch screen on the crowded 08:15 into London.

Media – While the networks trumpet 4G and even 5G connections, we all know that Murphy’s law operates on the mobile networks too.  Just when you most need to view that website, you can be guaranteed a blackspot or cell congestion meaning that nice big background image or hundreds of individual graphical icons fail to download, preventing the user from continuing.  Suitable media file sizes and content types will make a huge difference to mobile performance.

Click Targets – This is where usability and accessibility are nicely aligned, with small or poorly spaced links and buttons resulting in misplaced clicks, confusion and in worst-cases mistaken transactions. Again one-handed on the 08:15 train, the laboratory of mobile user testing, it’s quite difficult to imagine a button that’s too big.

Try it yourself

Take out your smartphone and Google (this really has been a verb in the Oxford English Dictionary since 2006) for your bank or card provider.  You’ll see that most have the “mobile-friendly” tag for their home page, the crown jewels in of their digital estate in terms of page-views.  If you dig a little deeper and search for the online portal login, FAQ or privacy policy you’ll likely find the opposite situation.  This will yield pages, sites and features based on legacy web architecture and design conceived well before mobile began to dominate search traffic.