Google tips to Optimize a Website for Tablet and Smartphone users

Mobile devices such as Smartphones, and especially Tablets, are now fast becoming more and more popular, and although nowhere near replacing desktops, they do seem to be gaining up on browser statistics. Now, they have more than 10% of the share, with Tablets almost as much being used as smartphones. This makes optimizing websites for mobile devices all the more important. But tablet users now don't want you to return a mobile version of your website to them. They want the desktop experience. But although there are no official guidelines from Google on creating search engine and user friendly tablet-optimized site, there are a few tips you can apply to make your website work across multiple platforms.

Smartphones often have small screens (despite high resolutions). So it is okay to return a mobile version of your site to them. But what about tablets? Tablets have much larger screens, and their hardware has gotten quite advanced, so as to be at par with a computer. So for them, rich-desktop versions of websites is just as easily manageable as on the desktops themselves.

Creating websites for Tablets

One good way to optimize your website for different devices is to use responsive web design. Since there are so many tablets out there, and so many screen sizes, you can't just target your website at just one screen size. This is where responsive web design helps. We have discussed about it in more detail in another post. Responsive designs re-adjust themselves according to the user's screen size. So they will look great across multiple platforms. 

Another suggestion is to create multiple versions of your website, and then detect the user's platform beforehand. You can then redirect him to the appropriate version of your website. Smartphone users go to the mobile version, whereas tablet users go to the desktop one.

Detecting platform

In order to detect whether a user has a tablet or a smartphone, you need to look at the user-agent string returned by browsers. Mobile users have the keyword "Mobile" in them. Tablets don't. Here's an example of a string returned by Chrome on a smartphone.
Mozilla/5.0 (Linux; Android 4.1.1; Galaxy Nexus Build/JRO03O) AppleWebKit/535.19 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/18.0.1025.166 Mobile Safari/535.19
Similarly, here's a string returned by Firefox on a smartphone.
Mozilla/5.0 (Android; Mobile; rv:16.0) Gecko/16.0 Firefox/16.0
As you can see, both have the keyword "Mobile" in them. In contrast, take a look at strings returned by an Android tablet (from Chrome)
Mozilla/5.0 (Linux; Android 4.1.1; Nexus 7 Build/JRO03S) AppleWebKit/535.19 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/18.0.1025.166 Safari/535.19
And from Firefox;
Mozilla/5.0 (Android; Tablet; rv:16.0) Gecko/16.0 Firefox/16.0
As you can see, no "Mobile" keyword for Tablets. You can then use some programming to check for this keyword in the string, and then return the respective website accordingly.

This should hopefully give you an idea on how to deal with tablet users. Take advantage of this technique and harness the large potential your tablet audience contains. If in doubt, feel free to ask any questions. Good luck :)

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