Google’s 'mobile friendly' initiative

Google has announced GoMo, an initiative that aims to get more companies to make their sites mobile-friendly. The GoMo website is split into sections that showcase why mobile sites matter, test an existing site’s rendering on mobile, and provide resources to help you build a mobile site.

In a press release, Wapple, one of the companies partnering with Google on the initiative, said that Google earlier this year reported 79 per cent of its largest advertisers lacked a mobile-optimised site. "This initiative from Google is exactly what is required for advertisers to maximise return on investment on mobile,” said Rich Holdsworth, Wapple CEO.

However, the site itself has drawn criticism from developers. On Twitter, designer Stephanie Rieger noted how the site failed on iPad, calling it a “missed opportunity”; Cloud Four co-founder Lyza Danger Gardner remarked that is “4.5 MEGABYTES on a PRIMED cache. I want to cry”; and mobile web strategist Jason Grigsby said: “ downloads all HTML and JS (none of which is minified or concatenated) then evaluates via JS if mobile before redirecting.”

Mobile platform strategist Peter-Paul Koch, the brain behind QuirksMode, wrote an article about his thoughts on the initiative, and also spoke to .net about its shortcomings. “It basically gets absolutely everything wrong,” he asserted. ”There's a huge script that has to be downloaded first, which is not a particularly good idea on a mobile connection. The links don't work in Chrome for Mac. Evidently Google didn't test its own site on its own browser, which is odd. They give a list of mobile best practices which isn't that bad, but [you don't get] any sort of detail on anything. The site itself is not quick, does not have a simple navigation, is not really designed for visibility, and so on.”

Koch added that the site provides a list of agencies to assist with mobile development and he wonders how they were picked: “Is Google becoming a middle-man for companies looking for mobile agencies? That would be bad.”

We asked if the site’s issues were simply teething problems, and whether the initiative itself is nonetheless a good thing, in showcasing that many sites aren't mobile-ready. “Yes. It's good to explain to clients that their sites should change,” said Koch. “However, plenty of clients already understand because they themselves own a smartphone and don't dare to show their companies' sites to other people because they are so mobile-unfriendly.”

Koch’s recommendations for any company wanting to ensure a site is fit for mobile is to find a developer and test their portfolio on a mobile device and see if it works. However, he admitted that it’s “pretty difficult for clients to find good mobile web developers, especially because there are so few of them and they're all extremely busy.”

When asked for comment, Wapple's Anne Thomas told .net the company was "shocked" that the talking point "seems to be the actual design and build of the website and not the initiative itself". She continued: "These are minor teething issues (the site is 24 hours old) in the grand scheme of this initiative. Google are being very proactive here and helping businesses address a big issue: consumers are going to be accessing the web via their mobile phones more than their PCs, and so the world needs to get 'mobile friendly'."

Thomas also said that the GoMo site is in fact 'mobilized' and works on "every device we have tested on". She added: "It could only be better if it was built by Wapple! By our measure, we would score it 8/10. Google GoMo is a fabulous initiative that provides great resources on mobile web publishing: it's been long awaited!"

Google did not return .net’s requests for comment.

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