CDNs: Pushing the Possibilities in Mobile-Optimized Web

Business.com / Marketing Solutions / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

In the last few years, the tide has been turning away from desktop computing and in favor of mobile devices. What do you need to do?

In the last few years, the tide has steadily been turning against desktop computing and in favor of mobile devices, with an increasing proportion of users getting online from mobile devices.

Naturally, online content creators such as websites, ads exchanges, and other content producers now have to attend to this massive mobile audience in creating and curating.

This is no longer simply a consideration, but a necessity.

Even Google confirms it: earlier this year, the search giant received more mobile than desktop search requests from top ten countries.

In other words, even for Google, the primary market audience has changed from chiefly desktop-centric to mobile-centric. The company has accordingly implemented vital changes to its search ranking algorithm.

Related Article: M-Day is Almost Here: Is Your Website Mobile-Friendly Yet?

The new changes to Google’s search ranking algorithm apply to mobile users and their search queries. Any website which is optimized for a mobile device will be ranked higher on mobile search results.

Conversely, websites with poor mobile support will be ranked low, no matter how excellent their content is. The mobile revolution has essentially upped the ante so that websites now have to attend more closely to their layout, design, and performance in a mobile context if publishers want to thrive in the mobile ecosystem.

Web Design Requirements

As we enter the mobile era of online search, one of the key changes involves the philosophy behind web design. The mobile world is highly fragmented, in that various devices come with different screen sizes. Consequently, older and more rigid web design philosophies are doomed to fail here.

In its place, two different approaches which are driving mobile-supportive web design are responsive and adaptive. An adaptive web design pre-conceives a vast range of mobile devices and has foreseeable support for each one of them. It consequently costs a dear buck and requires extra work on the part of designers and developers.

Responsive web design is more off-the-shelf and makes use of fluid layout elements to adjust to different screen sizes in real-time. It is easier to implement, but it has its limitations in terms of performance and is considered the next best thing to an adaptive approach.

Need for Speed

Apart from design and layout, performance is the next major concern of mobile users. Mobile users want web pages to load on their devices in a flash. Google’s algorithm considers page load speeds a decisive mobile ranking factor.

A multitude of surveys and researchers confirm that every additional second it takes for a website to load on a mobile device chip away at its user base. A study suggests that for a commerce site earning 100,000 a day, every extra second it takes to load costs it $2.5 million in annual losses. In simple words, faster mobile websites get more users and slower ones are losing the race.

Related Article: How to Transform Your Static Site into a Responsive Website

Creating a Mobile-Optimized Web Architecture

In designing a mobile-optimized website, several factors need to be considered. It’s an entire process and at its foundation are two critical mobile-specific factors: speed and layout. First, the page load speed should be rapid enough to meet the expectations of the user. And second, the layout of the site and the content within should be perfectly smooth in performance and well-adjusted to the size of the user’s device. It is only by mastering these two aspects that a website can hope to be optimized in Google’s mobile search rankings. The following points may elucidate these concepts more concretely and in detail:

  • Time to First Byte (TTFB): TTFB is the time between the user’s request for a web page and the moment first byte is received by his browser. It is the most basic form of measuring the response time of a website. When it comes to Google’s mobile search ranking, TTFB is a major factor and Google directly measures the mobile optimization of websites based on this. There are many ways to minimize TTFB. A content delivery network can improve SEO, in this case. A CDN hosts the static content such as scripts and images on their servers. These servers, usually situated in different locations around the world trim down TTFB by a very significant margin. Rather than accessing static elements of the website from your server, these are served the site straight from the CDN server located closest to their location, thus reducing latency. A capable CDN uses intelligent analysis and real-time caching, which can improve the site load speeds by about 50 percent.
  • JavaScript and CSS: According to Google’s prescribed guidelines, the use of synchronous scripts and cascading style sheets (CSS) can significantly delay page load speeds. When a page containing a synchronous script load, it pauses the loading when the script is encountered and downloads the whole script before it proceeds with loading. So the script is essentially a bottleneck for web page loading. The same goes for a synchronous stylesheet. It blocks a page from loading until it is entirely downloaded which is a significant impediment to a speedy page load. Accordingly, Google advises against using synchronous scripts.

A good way to resolve this is to make use of asynchronous JavaScript and CSS. An asynchronous implementation downloads the script or the CSS file in the background while the page continues to load without any pause. This approach works best with smaller scripts and files. One way CDNs support page load speeds is by caching JavaScript, CSS files, and any other resources that your website may need to load. Combining such caching with on-the-fly compression, CDNs prove very effective even in handling sizable files.

Related Article: 80% of Consumers Are On Mobile. Where Are You Reaching Them?

A Winning Strategy for the Mobile Age

Mobile has overtaken the desktop in terms of traffic volume, revenues and the eyes of the advertisers and content creators alike. Even activities such as online search are now being driven by mobile markets. This is evident in Google’s algorithm changes and its decision to make mobile-friendliness a major factor in its mobile search rankings.

Web architecture has a central role to play in this shift to mobile. Web sites with a mobile-optimized architecture have an advantage. But this requires key modifications to the previously desktop-centric approach in terms of design, layout, speed and performance of the site. An all-around approach that offers flexible design and optimized network delivery is certain to be a winning strategy under these circumstances.

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