Small Businesses Adapt.

This week I heard something from a few business owners I know that surprised me.

I’d mentioned Google’s new use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking factor in search engine results, which is going to begin on April 21. The response was basically:

“I don’t see why I should be forced to pay to update my website just because Google says so.”

It surprised me because this isn’t about Google. It’s about customers. Google is acknowledging the rising tide of what customers have already been doing for quite some time – paying more visits to websites on smartphones or tablets than desktop computers.

When it comes down to it, it’s about choosing to make things hard or easy for your visitors to accomplish their goals on your site.

You make it hard when you serve up a website that, in a smartphone, has unreadable text and you force visitors to zoom in to see content. You make it hard when they have to scroll right and left to see what’s on your page. You make it hard when the links are so close together it’s impossible to click just one with a finger or thumb.

A lot of people don’t put up with this anymore. I know I usually don’t – I say “usually ” because if I really want to see the content on a certain site, I’ll still zoom. But most of the time, I just bounce right off that page and go look at another search result – often that turns out to be a competitor.

You make it easy when you serve up a mobile version of your site to phone users. It’s easy to read, easy to get around. It has big buttons to push and menu items that are big enough to hit one at a time. If it’s responsive, it may contain every bit of content that’s on the desktop-sized version of your website. In short, it’s a much better experience for the user all around. The website’s design doesn’t get in the visitor’s way.

Adapt, or get left behind.

The people who made the comments I mentioned above are smart business people, but they seem to be forgetting one of the superpowers of the small business: the ability to adapt quickly to a changing marketplace.

Smartphones and tablets aren’t fads. They aren’t going anywhere. Your customers and readers are going to be using them more and more. Refusing to make things as easy as possible for them to buy or use whatever you’re offering makes no sense. None at all.

You’re putting a brick wall in front of them. It’s like saying, “I don’t care about you.  It doesn’t matter to me if you take your business elsewhere.”

Making the switch to a responsive or mobile website is not that difficult. It can take as little as a few hours of work for some sites. If you’re still putting roadblocks in front of your potential customers, consider doing them a favor instead. Show them some love. Make it easier on them, and in turn, you may start seeing some of those sales or signups that had been going to your competitors coming your way again.