Is Your Website Mobile Friendly?

Responsive web design (RWD) is a setup where the server always sends the same
HTML code to all devices and CSS is used to alter the rendering of the page on
the device.
Google’s algorithms should be able to automatically detect this setup if all
Googlebot user agents are allowed to crawl the page and its assets (CSS,
JavaScript, and images).

Responsive design serves all devices with the same code that adjusts for
screen size.

TL;DR

  • Use meta name="viewport" tag to tell the browser how to adjust the content.
  • Check out our Web Fundamentals site for further documentation.

Using meta name=”viewport”

To signal to browsers that your page will adapt to all devices, add a meta tag
to the head of the document:

<meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width, initial-scale=1.0">

The meta viewport tag gives the browser instructions on how to
adjust the dimensions and scaling of the page to the width of the device. When
the meta viewport element is absent, mobile browsers default to rendering the
page at a desktop screen width (usually about 980px, though this varies across
devices). Mobile browsers then try to make the content look better by increasing
font sizes and either scaling the content to fit the screen or showing only the
part of the content that fits within the screen.

For users, this means that font sizes may have an inconsistent appearance, and
users may have to double-tap or pinch-to-zoom in order to be able to see and
interact with the content. For Google, we might not judge a page as
mobile-friendly because it requires this kind (or type) of interaction on a
mobile device.

On the left is a page without a meta viewport specified – the mobile
browser therefore assumes desktop width and scales the page to fit the screen,
making the content hard to read. On the right is the same page with a viewport
specified that matches the device width – the mobile browser doesn’t scale the
page and the content is readable.

For responsive images, include the <picture> element.

As a general rule, if your site works in a recent browser such as Google Chrome
or Apple Mobile Safari, it would work with our algorithms.

Why responsive design

We recommend using responsive web design because it:

  • Makes it easier for users to share and link to your content with a single URL.
  • Helps Google’s algorithms accurately assign indexing properties to the page
    rather than needing to signal the existence of corresponding desktop/mobile pages.
  • Requires less engineering time to maintain multiple pages for the same content.
  • Reduces the possibility of the common mistakes that affect mobile sites.
  • Requires no redirection for users to have a device-optimized view, which
    reduces load time. Also, user agent-based redirection is error-prone and can
    degrade your site’s user experience (see Pitfalls when detecting user agents
    section for details).
  • Saves resources when Googlebot crawls your site. For responsive web design
    pages, a single Googlebot user agent only needs to crawl your page once,
    rather than crawling multiple times with different Googlebot user agents to
    retrieve all versions of the content. This improvement in crawling efficiency
    can indirectly help Google index more of your site’s content and keep it
    appropriately fresh.

If you’re interested in responsive web design, start with our blog post
on Webmaster Central and visit the Web Fundamentals site.



JavaScript

One part of building mobile-friendly sites that requires careful
consideration is the use of JavaScript to alter the rendering and behavior of
the site on different devices. Typical uses of JavaScript include deciding
which ad or which image resolution variant to show in the page.

This section describes different approaches to using JavaScript and how they
relate to Google’s recommendation of using responsive web design.

Common configurations

Three popular implementations of JavaScript for mobile-friendly sites are:

  • JavaScript-adaptive: In this configuration, all devices are served the
    same HTML, CSS, and JavaScript content. When the JavaScript is executed on
    the device, the rendering or behavior of the site is altered. If a
    website requires JavaScript, this is Google’s recommended configuration
    .
  • Combined detection: In this implementation, the website uses both
    JavaScript and server-side detection of device capabilities to serve
    different content to different devices.
  • Dynamically-served JavaScript: In this configuration, all devices are
    served the same HTML, but the JavaScript is served from a URL that
    dynamically serves different JavaScript code depending on the device’s
    user-agent.

Let’s look at each of these configurations in detail.

JavaScript-adaptive

In this configuration, a URL serves the same contents (HTML, CSS, Javascript, an
image) to all devices. Only when the JavaScript is executed on the device is the
rendering or behavior of the site altered. This is similar to how responsive web
design, using CSS media queries, works.

As an example, a page serves all devices the same HTML which includes a
<script> element that requests an external URL that serves the JavaScript. All
devices requesting the JavaScript’s URL get the same code. When executed, the
JavaScript detects the device and decides to alter something about the page, say
to include a smartphone-friendly image or ad code instead of the
desktop alternatives.

This configuration is very closely related to responsive web design and our
algorithms can detect this setup automatically. Further, this configuration does
not have a requirement for the Vary HTTP header because the URLs of the page and
its assets do not dynamically serve content. Because of these advantages, if
your website requires the use of JavaScript, this is our recommended
configuration.

Combined detection

Combined detection is a setup where the server works in tandem with JavaScript
on the client to detect the device’s capabilities and alter the content being
served.

For example, a site may choose to alter the rendering of the content based on
whether the device is a desktop or smartphone. In this case, the website can
include JavaScript that detects the screen dimensions, which are then sent to
the server that updates or alters the code sent to the device. Typically, the
JavaScript stores the detected device capabilities in a cookie that the server
reads on subsequent visits from the same device.

Given that the server returns different HTML to different user-agents, combined
detection is considered a type of dynamic serving configuration. The details are
described in full in the dynamic serving section, but to briefly summarize,
the website should include the “Vary: User-agent” HTTP response header when a
URL that serves different HTML content to different user-agents is requested.

Dynamically-served JavaScript

In this configuration, all devices are served the same HTML which includes a
<script> element to include an external JavaScript file that can have
different content depending on the requesting user-agent. That is, the
JavaScript code is dynamically served.

In this case, we recommend that the JavaScript file be served with the “Vary:
User-agent” HTTP header. This is a signal to Internet caches and Googlebot that
the JavaScript can be different for different user agents, and is a signal for
Googlebot to crawl the JavaScript file using different Googlebot user-agents.