Pelland Blog

Mobile Is Not Just a City in Alabama

February 4th, 2015

Nobody needs to be convinced these days that their business needs to have a website. What surprises me is how many people think that the website that was built 4 or 5 years ago, before the commanding surge in the use of mobile devices, could be adequately serving their needs today. Let me simply say that times have changed.


Statistics compiled by Google, based upon the Google Analytics software that is running on websites around the world (and probably including your own) demonstrate that 50% of all website traffic is now mobile. In fact, this past holiday season, 22.5% of all online sales came through mobile devices (which are defined as either phones or tablets). Those numbers are impressive.

Google is now warning website owners if their sites fall short of being mobile-friendly … what they refer to as “critical mobile usability errors”, with the presumption being that these sites will soon be penalized in search results. Google is reportedly ready to begin downgrading those sites that are not configured for proper display on smartphones. The impact of that upon an older website could be tremendous, since the #1 source of new traffic to most websites is generated through organic searches on Google.

Taking steps in that direction, if you currently perform a Google search from your phone, the search engine results page will now label sites that are deemed to be mobile-friendly. Sites that fail that test typically display text that is too small to read on a phone, links that are too close together for fingers to navigate, or the lack of a mobile viewport (requiring users to pinch and zoom in order to view content). A site that is not mobile-friendly is not only at risk of losing out in its search ranking, it is losing its owner business today.

Let me demonstrate. I just performed a quick check of the Google Analytics on the conventional website of one of our clients, confirming that within the past 30 days, the lion’s share of the site’s traffic came from the users of mobile devices. The breakdown was 47.56% of visitors using smartphones, 14.98% using tablets, and only 37.45% using either a desktop or laptop computer. Keeping in mind that this is not a mobile-optimized site, the smartphone users visiting this site were spending only 60% of the amount of time on the site as the dwindling numbers of users of conventional computers. The bounce rate (the number of visitors who arrive at a site, then leave very quickly) was about 64% higher for smartphone users. Users of tablets, with larger displays, were somewhat more tolerant.

Nobody would have imagined this scenario a few years ago. Considering the fact that there is a direct correlation between the amount of time spent on a website and the likelihood of the user taking the intended course of action (in the instance of a campground, typically this means making a reservation request), these numbers are foreboding.

Before You Panic, Check Your Site

Fortunately, Google has provided a quick online test that will let you know whether or not your site is mobile-friendly. Go to the following link, where you may enter your URL:

If your site passes the test, congratulations are in order. If it fails the test, it is time to at least think about budgeting for a replacement. The next question involves what type of mobile solution will best suit your needs. For all practical purposes, there are three choices.

  • Responsive Web Design: This is the option that is recommended by Google. A responsive website serves the same site content to all devices, with a fluid page layout that adapts to each device. These sites are easy to maintain, but they may be expensive.
  • Separate Mobile Site: This was the preferred option prior to the onset of responsive design. It involves the construction of separate mobile content. User’s devices are detected and shown content that is specifically built for that device, or they are redirected to a mobile-specific URL. These sites are more difficult to maintain (because content is duplicated among pages) and they do not present consistent content across all devices. For these reasons, this option is falling out of favor.
  • A Mobile App: This is a separate application that is built for mobile users. It must be downloaded and installed by the user, and it is often used in conjunction with a website. An app has a usability advantage for smartphone users, but the costs are both prohibitive and unnecessary for most small businesses, both upfront and when it is time to maintain and update content.

The bottom line is that, if you are concerned about mobile traffic to your site (and you should be concerned!), there are decisions to be made, and you probably do not want to indefinitely delay making those decisions. Your new site should adhere to a specific set of best practices. These include the avoidance of software that it not supported on most mobile devices, particularly Flash. (There are alternate ways of presenting animation, using CSS or JavaScript, that are mobile-friendly.) Your site should also not include text that is unreadable without zooming, content with a screen width that requires horizontal scrolling on small devices, or links that are not far enough apart for fat fingers to navigate.

There are new websites being launched every day that are based upon old methods. Investing in one of those today is roughly equivalent to going out to buy a new car but coming home with a horse and buggy instead.

This post was written by Peter Pelland

What Is All the Buzz About Responsive Websites?

July 10th, 2013

If you have been paying attention long enough, over the years you will have heard all kinds of Web design concepts touted as the newest answer to vanilla ice cream. One by one, they have either fallen by the wayside or are ready to follow the lemmings into that ditch. Progressive JPEG images, animated GIF images, and frames were early concepts that failed to stand the test of time. More recently, Flash animation was once considered the rage; however, as soon as support was dropped by Apple’s iOS (running iPhones and iPads), Flash became about as popular as a case of head lice.

Understandably, many people have grown a bit suspicious when they hear about anything that is marketed as the latest and greatest, so what is the story with responsive Web design? The best way to start answering that question is an explanation of what it is and how it works. Let me begin by saying that, in general, change is a good thing. As the Internet evolves, improvements tend to enhance and improve the user experience.

You may have seen the responsive Web design concept promoted by your local TV stations and similar businesses, usually along the lines of “One Address for Every Device”. Unlike a separate mobile website, responsive technology allows a single website to respond to each user device and display the site in the most appropriate form. Responsive sites are flexible and able to adjust, rearrange, and optimize content on a wide range of displays and input devices. The concept can be summarized in the word fluidity. Responsive sites are based upon the use of a fluid grid, fluid graphics and photos, fluid text, and a fluid background. The grid features a series of stops or fluid breakpoints, where the content switches from one representation to the next.

Unlike a mobile app, which needs to be downloaded and installed (and then may be rarely used), a responsive site is not limited to any one platform, avoiding duplication of expense for Android and Apple devices (with Blackberry, Windows Phone, Firefox OS, Kindle, Nook, and other upcoming mobile devices out of luck). Unlike a separate mobile-friendly website, which incurs a separate set of costs and often trims down the range of content that is presented to the users of mobile devices, a responsive website presents a consistent range of content that is optimized for every user’s device. This is a new way of building websites, and it is being quickly embraced both by top developers and savvy clients as a more future-proof, economical and elegant approach to delivering content across the expanding ocean of Web capable devices.

When visiting a responsive website using a desktop computer or laptop, you are presented with one version of the site. Using a tablet or smartphone, you are presented with alternate versions that are automatically optimized for the display size and touch-based input. When viewing a responsive website on a conventional desktop or laptop computer, you can actually resize your browsing window to see the content transform in real time as you reach the grid stops or breakpoints. Cool? Yes!

My own company’s first venture into responsive website design was the new website built for the Vermont Campground Association, the first responsive campground association website in the United States. The accompanying graphic shows the content as displayed on a variety of common devices.

Other than keeping up with technology and presenting your business in a savvy technological light, what are the other advantages of turning to responsive design for your next website? First of all, as I have already alluded, the total cost will probably be less than the cost of developing separate conventional and mobile sites. It is also no longer necessary to register a separate “mobile” domain name or even create a separate subdomain for your mobile content. In all likelihood, this will reduce your recurring hosting costs.

One big advantage presented by responsive technology is the consistency of branding that it allows. No longer do you have to wonder whether somebody is viewing your “full” website on a desktop computer or the abbreviated content on a mobile device. You also can eliminate those “Click here to view our mobile site” or “Click here to download our mobile app” links. A responsive site sends those links to the buggy whip museum!

Check the Google Analytics on your website. (If your website is not running Google Analytics, stop what you are doing, and get it installed!) I just checked the Google Analytics for one well-known campground website that we maintain, and the statistics are compelling. The site generates enough traffic for these statistics to be both meaningful and valid. Over the last 12 months, 28.1% of the visitors to their website were using a mobile device. Within the last month, that percentage shot up to 39.9%, and within the last week is up to 41.7%. Within the last 24 hours? It’s up to 42.3%. Do you see a trend?

Just as important, without either a responsive or a mobile website, visitors to this campground’s website who are using mobile devices are spending roughly two-thirds of the time that is spent by visitors using conventional computers, and the bounce rate is an astounding 85% higher. (The bounce rate represents visitors who reach a website and leave quickly.) Yes, people using mobile devices are prone to make quicker decisions, but these numbers simply represent lost traffic … and lost traffic means lost business.

Perhaps most importantly, responsive technology is good for your website’s SEO (search engine optimization). In fact, both Google and Bing have endorsed responsive Web design. Only one address needs to be indexed, and only one address needs to be checked when viewing your analytic reports. No longer will multiple versions of content be diluting the search engine ranking of your pages. Whatever form it takes, search engines have always hated (and penalized) duplicate content. It’s as simple as that!

Now that I have explained what it is, how it works, and its many advantages, are you ready to decide? Will your next website be built using yesterday’s technology or for tomorrow’s users?


Content for this article was also contributed by Joshua Pelland and Charles Davis, Pelland Advertising staff members.

This post was written by Peter Pelland