Remember the recent discussion and feedback post about ToolGuyd’s layout? I mentioned that I’m working on the site layout, and you guys offered some fantastic feedback, commentary, and requests.
I have been working on small changes, but all my plans were recently thrown to the wind.
I recently received a message from Google:
Google systems have tested 6,160 pages from your site and found that 100% of them have critical mobile usability errors. The errors on these 6,160 pages severely affect how mobile users are able to experience your website. These pages will not be seen as mobile-friendly by Google Search, and will therefore be displayed and ranked appropriately for smartphone users.
Here are the problems:
- Touch elements too close
- Small font size
- Viewport not configured
- Flash usage
Touch elements too close: Google is telling me that it’s too hard for the average reader’s finger pad to hit the exact link a reader wants to press. In other words, they want to click on “hand tools,” but might click on “power tools” in the top menu.
Small font size: I’ve noticed inconsistencies, and were planning to fix them, but basically all the sizes have to be adjusted for mobile users.
Viewport not configured: A viewport scales a page to mobile-friendly sizes. If it’s not configured, only the desktop site will be shown in full-screen on all devices. This is the biggest issue and requires a “fresh slate” design.
Flash usage: YouTube videos embedded before a certain time were Flash-based. I’ve since swapped them out with non-Flash-based code.
Desktop vs. Mobile Users
There are now a LOT more mobile users than previously. One and two years ago, the gap between desktop and mobile users was a lot larger. That’s not true now.
On ToolGuyd, the ratio is currently approximately 53% desktop (and laptop) users, 33% mobile users, 14% tablet users.
To ensure that mobile visitors can find ToolGuyd reviews and content through search, where Google is by far the dominant player, I have to fix these issues.
The Plan – ToolGuyd Will Look Completely Different
Google’s message really says “get moving and fix this fast.” It has really lit a fire under me to get this done quickly.
There is no easy way for me to modify ToolGuyd’s current theme to be more mobile-friendly. I knew this, which is why I had already started working on developing an updated and migratable layout.
The only solution is a “fresh slate” design where the framework or parent theme is completely redone.
I hand-coded the ToolGuyd theme as it looks now, basing it on an official bare-bones parent theme, and made small and careful adjustments over time. I had been tidying up all of these customizations and adjustments, and am nearly ready to begin adding them to a responsive framework/parent theme.
Normally, when I make a lot of changes all at once, I develop the site on a local computer and work at it until it’s perfect. I don’t want to do that now, or rather I cannot really do that now. Given my current schedule and workload, I just don’t several hours a day for a couple of weeks to develop the “perfect” site all at once. The only way to provide a near-seamless theme change is for to pause all content for a couple of weeks, but I don’t want to do that.
This is what will happen:
One day you’ll be on ToolGuyd, and it’ll look as it does now. Then, the next day, everything will be completely different.
I will be using GearGuyd to test some of the major things out first, before the overnight change happens. And no, as GearGuyd looks now is NOT how ToolGuyd will look.
Some of the ToolGuyd look and feel will carry over, but I want you to be prepared that certain aspects will remain different. There were a few changes I wanted to make for a long time, such as to the front page, but they were too difficult without writing massive amounts of code. Starting with a clean framework or parent theme will allow me to more easily build in those features I’ve always wanted.
I am really attached to the way the site looks now, partly because I was wholly responsible for designing it this way, and partly because it’s been like this for so long. This is going to be hard for me, but I hope that most if not all of you will be pleased with the new look.
There is just no way to implement some of the changes readers requested – such as wider columns and larger images – or the mobile-friendly changes Google is strongly advising for, with the infrastructure the current theme is based off of.
Change is inevitable, and it will happen all at once.
Why I’m Telling You This
I want you all to have a very positive experience when you’re on the site. When the changes go live, if there’s something that doesn’t work for you, or something you don’t like, please let me know!
I might not be able to honor every request, but I’ll at least consider each one.
I’ll be tinkering with the back-end of the site a little bit every single day for a while, and so your feedback will be even more invaluable than before.
After an initial significant shift, changes will be small and incremental as I add polish to everything. This will help to ensure less bloat, but the primary intent is so that I can get things done sooner. It took me a very long time to design and code the current ToolGuyd layout, and my decision to shift away from it is easy nor at all willy-nilly.