Are state websites up to the mobile challenge?

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Are state websites up to the mobile challenge?

Google’s recently updated algorithm and ranking device for mobile friendliness may spell trouble for some government agencies. As GCN recently reported, websites not meeting Google’s standards may fall off the all-important first page of web search results.

And according to a GCN review of all 50 states' main websites, 28 percent fail to meet Google's standards for mobile-friendliness. Alaska, Connecticut, Florida, Louisiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Vermont, Washington and Wyoming all fall short when run through the search giant's testing tool.  According to Google, the worst state site for mobile users is Nevada's.

Google’s test flagged a few common issues. For all 14 of the problematic state pages, the links were too close together. Other shared problems included unreadably small text, poorly set mobile viewports and content that could not scale down to fit an average-width mobile screen.

Google breaks it down further through its “PageSpeed Insights,” which offers a detailed look into both user experience and speed. For the 14 state pages, the average user experience score was 65 percent, with the biggest bugs being the tap targets, illegible font sizes and, again, poorly configured viewports.

The average speed assessment for the same group was 57 percent, with major problems like inadequate browser caching, render-blocking JavaScript and CSS, poorly optimized images and a need to minify or compress HTML, CSS and JavaScript.

None of these problems are unsurmountable, of course.  Google’s mobile friendliness scorecard also explains how site administrators can fix the specific problems cited.

For an overall solution, RWD, or responsive web design, is a popular way to display one site on many different sized devices. “RWD refers to a fluidly constructed web page layout that scales from handheld device displays to large, high-resolution computer displays using flexible typography, flexible images, fluid grids and CSS3 media queries,” according to DigitalGov, the digital how-to site run by the U.S. General Services Administration.

Some federal agencies adapted to and succeeded with RWD when mobile-usage rates started going up. The Department of Health and Human Services and the National Cancer Institute are using structured content such as smarter metadata, tagging and content modeling to improve digital information and and the way it’s seen and shared through various devices, according to another DigitalGov report.

And it's not just Google rankings at stake.  According to comScore, mobile-only Internet users now outnumber desktop-only users in the United States -- so the pressure from citizens for mobile-friendly site access is almost certain to grow.

About the Author

Amanda Ziadeh is a Reporter/Producer for GCN.

Prior to joining 1105 Media, Ziadeh was a contributing journalist for USA Today Travel's Experience Food and Wine site. She's also held a communications assistant position with the University of Maryland Office of the Comptroller, and has reported for the American Journalism Review, Capitol File Magazine and DC Magazine.

Ziadeh is a graduate of the University of Maryland where her emphasis was multimedia journalism and French studies.

Click here for previous articles by Ms. Ziadeh or connect with her on Twitter: @aziadeh610.


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