Why Your DMO Website Must be Mobile Friendly!

With the increasing usage of mobile phones by travelers all over the world, it is absolutely essential that DMOs make sure their website is mobile friendly. According to this Google report on the Traveler’s Road to Decision (in English) 84% of leisure travelers rely on search engines via smartphones to find local information:

If a DMO’s site isn’t mobile friendly travelers will be frustrated and give up. Only 23% of visitors will push on and continue with a non-mobile friendly site:

But what exactly does mobile friendly mean? Starting in 2014 Google made a change to their search listing algorithm which favored sites that can be easily viewed on mobile devices. They called these sites “mobile friendly”. This is similar to responsive design, where the text, images, and page layout are automatically resized to fit the user’s screen, whether they are viewing on a PC with a large, widescreen monitor, a tablet, or a smartphone:

The advantage of mobile friendly sites is that they can be easily viewed on smartphone’s smaller screens:

Google further emphasized the importance of mobile-friendly sites with their April 21st, 2015 mobile friendly ranking algorithm which determines whether your site is mobile friendly or not on a page by page basis (this is an on/off algorithm, with no degrees of mobile friendliness. It is pass or fail). Simply put, if your DMO site is not mobile friendly then the search engines will penalize your site and show it lower in their search results, meaning inbound visitors will have difficulty finding and using it. To learn more about Google’s requirements for mobile friendly, visit their guide here (you can change the language to Japanese by selecting the language switcher at page bottom).

Mobile friendly doesn’t only refer to a website which resizes automatically for screen size, it also must take into account overall usability of page layout and menu design. Layouts are often changed with page elements stacked on top of each other in a single column, and some page elements may be turned off on mobile:

A common mobile friendly menu is the “hamburger menu”, a drop-down menu icon with 3 horizontal lines which kind of looks like a hamburger. Clicking on this icon expands the menu. This has now become so common that the menu is usually not labeled, as users already know to click on it to expand.

Finally, one of the most important mobile friendly considerations is speed. If your site is too slow to load mobile users will give up quickly and click back in their browser. But how slow is too slow? This report from Google shows that Speed is Key to Mobile Experience (in English). In fact, you should aim for no more than a 3 second load time, as almost half of site visitors will leave after 3 seconds:

This is especially true for countries outside Japan which often don’t have unlimited data service for mobile phones and often have slow internet service. A slow loading page heavy with content means too much data to download, which can often be expensive for users without unlimited data plans or wifi.

To check if your site is mobile friendly or not you can use Google’s free mobile-friendly test tool here and the Google page speed insights tool here. Google also has a new, simplified tool which seems to be a combination of both. Note that it is very, very difficult to get a perfect 100/100 score for these tests. Most DMO sites will score less than 50/100. All sites built with TourismBuilder are automatically mobile friendly, and are designed to be as fast as possible. Here is an example of the test results for http://tourismbuilder.com:

TourismBuilder.com scores high for mobile friendliness with 97/100, but we’ve still got some improvement to do on mobile speed with 77/100. We’re currently working on a new upgrade to our optimization and caching technology to further speed this up. Desktop speed is OK, with 90/100.

For comparison, let’s look at Japan’s premier DMO site, http://kyoto.travel (not yet on TourismBuilder), which gets more inbound visitors than any other site in Japan, and therefore should set the standard for speed:

Kyoto.travel scores very well for mobile friendliness, with 99/100, but unfortunately only 1/100 for mobile speed and 3/100 for desktop (this is unfortunate for Kyoto, but can be easily fixed by switching to TourismBuilder!).

Let’s look at one more site, for Japan’s second most popular tourist destination of Osaka (not yet on TourismBuilder), http://www.osaka-info.jp:

Osaka-info.jp scores a little better, with 96/100 for mobile friendliness, 13/100 for mobile, and 15/100 for desktop. Unfortunately, this is still too slow for inbound visitors.

We don’t want to be too harsh on Kyoto and Osaka, so let’s look at examples of Japan’s top 10 destinations (not yet on TourismBuilder):

Unfortunately, although many of these sites have a mobile friendly design, none of them achieve more than a “Poor” rating for speed.

Now compare those to http://www.visitokinawa.jp which is running on TourismBuilder:

Although visitokinawa.jp scores the highest out of all of these examples, with a “Fair” rating of 74 on desktop, it still gets a “Poor” rating on mobile. It’s essential to break through this speed barrier and at least get a “Fair” rating, so we’re currently developing new optimization and caching technology to further speed this up.

This is what that technology looks like on our beta testing site:

Success! We’ve finally broken through the mobile speed barrier and achieved a “Fair” rating on 66/100 on mobile, 78/100 on desktop. We’ll be launching this on the visitokinawa.jp live site as soon as beta testing is complete.

Because of this technology, it’s now possible for you to move your DMO site to TourismBuilder and experience the same improvements in mobile friendliness and site speed.

To learn more about how to make your DMO website mobile friendly, increase speed, and how we do this with TourismBuilder please contact us from our Support page.

This post is also available in: ja日本語 (Japanese)

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