Tablets and mobile devices are increasingly becoming more popular and as a result, webmasters need to ensure that users are visiting the best visually performing website as possible.
What do tablet users expect to see when they visit your website? A full, desktop-style site complete with high-res video, animations and so on, or a trimmed-down mobile template for easy navigation and full use of their smaller screen?
According to Google, despite tablets’ on-the-go capabilities, it’s the former – a fully rich web experience, usually accessed on a Wi-Fi connection where bandwidth limits and data charges are not a concern.
In a recent Google Webmaster Central Blog post, Webmaster Trends Analyst Pierre Far and developer.android.com lead tech writer Scott Main note that many webmasters opt for a redirect approach, directing mobile users away from their ‘normal’ website to a mobile version.
“If you use this configuration, be careful not to inadvertently redirect tablet users to the smartphone-optimised site too,” they warn.
For instance, on Android handsets and tablets, only smartphones include the word ‘Mobile’ in their user-agent string, while both types of device include the word ‘Android’, making it possible to distinguish between small-screen phones and larger-screen tablets.
Google’s Developers guidelines for creating smartphone-friendly websites suggest that the best-practice approach is actually to serve the same HTML to visitors regardless of what type of device they are using.
However, responsive CSS can be used to determine how the HTML is displayed, allowing extra graphical elements to be removed where bandwidth is a concern, or simply to make the most of the screen ‘real estate’ available on a lower-resolution display.
There may be SEO benefits to using a single set of HTML too, rather than having separate sites for desktop and mobile users.
In general, keeping HTML in one place helps it to be ranked more highly by Google, and should also mean inbound links all point to the same place, adding further to the SEO value of the page.
Serving your visitors effectively is the most important consideration though – and Google’s guidelines add mobile redirects as a backup option, if responsive same-HTML design does not suit your needs well enough.