To say that the increased use of mobile devices for browsing the internet is increasing is hardly news, but it might be news to some that 2014 is the year when it is predicted that browsing on tablets and smartphones will overtake desktops. Here's some stats
Treating mobile web design as an afterthought is no longer an option. Sites now need to be designed and built firstly for mobile and then developed upwards for desktops.
There are two main forms of mobile friendly website: responsive and adaptive. Both allow websites to be viewed in mobile devices and various screen sizes, ultimately providing your visitors with a better user experience.
A responsive site is one that will fluidly adjust the page elements to fit any screen or device size. As you drag the side of the browser to make it larger or smaller, you'll see the site change in real time. One of the best examples of this I've come across this Christmas is Currys - go on, try it (but make sure you come back!).
An adaptive site is one that will identify each device that visits the site and then deliver the best version of itself, based on the size and capabilities of that device. If you visit the site on different devices, you'll not only see different designs, you may even see different content, because with adaptive design you can send completely different versions of your site to each device. Take at look at Etsy.com on desktop, tablet and mobile and you'll see what I mean.
Which is best? Well there are pros and cons of both and you're probably best advised talking to your developer (or us!) about the particular needs of your business. If you want to start that discussion from a position of being informed, here's a useful infographic that sets out the differences nice and clearly.
Over the last four months, Google has been talking about a more aggressive target for mobile site performance: sub one-second page load times.
Enforcement of this aspiration comes in the usual way: ranking rewards for sites achieving this goal and penalising those that don't.
Smartphone ranking will now exclude sites running Flash assets if the smartphone or tablet won't support it (read: iPhones and iPads). This is significant enough in its own right, and has slipped under the radar somewhat.
Again, we'd advise talking to your developer about making changes to check and improve page load speeds. Those of you with an insatiable curiosity (or boredom with the sound of the kids fighting and grandma's snoring on Christmas afternoon) can use Google's PageSpeed Tools to get a picture of your site's mobile performance and pointers on areas for improvement.
So, I reckon you have around 12 months of competitive advantage ahead of you from today if you get your mobile site performance up before the rest of your market wakes up to the need.
I know what I'll be working on!