Fix Mobile 'Issues' on Already-Responsive Sites

Google Webmaster Tools is a dirty f___ing liar. If your Joomla site is already responsive, and if the preceding sentence sums up your attitude toward a certain 'mobile usability issues' email you might have gotten lately, here's a little something for the tablets, the smartphones, and you.

Fix this or get ready to be kicked off the internet - Google is on a mission, and any website that isn't seen as mobile-ready by April 21, 2015, is going to have a bad time.So you've already gotten past the responsive hump. Congratulations! Now your website is completely future-proof -- never again will you need to rush, to implement the latest technology or be left in the duhahahahahahahah moving on.

However, you may find that, although your website is gloriously responsive and downright seductive on any device (like mine), Google Webmaster Tools still complains. When you Fetch as Google, you learn that Google has been seeing a useless, ugly version of your website. What gives?

Good news: If the above describes your situation, the fix is very simple.

So that nasty, nagging email has been looming over your head. Maybe nobody's told you yet, but if you don't fix this problem, your website will be in big trouble, come late April. But these accusations make no sense to you! Your website is responsive, dammit! Where is the "nuh-uh, Google's a dirty liar!" button?

Not pictured: cold, hard, snarky justice.
Pictured: My nastygram from Google Webmaster Tools. Not pictured: cold, hard, snarky playground justice. The internet really needs more "nuh-uh!" buttons.

The problem is a stale bit of overreaching optimization. Joomla ships with a default robots.txt file, which blocks all search engines, not just Google, from seeing your site in its full glory. The solution is easy: just edit robots.txt and remove two or three lines.

Here are the directories to unblock by deleting their corresponding lines from robots.txt, and why:

  • images/
    This is only blocked in sites which were originally installed using an older version of Joomla. The reason to unblock it: images create spacing. Chances are, without your images intact, spacing will be damaged -- and spacing is very important for mobile usability.
  • media/
    Some extensions place CSS, JavaScript, and other files here, for use in the front end. This is unfortunate and you might want to avoid unblocking this one until you confirm it's necessary (by unblocking the others first, and having Google re-test).
  • templates/
    This is the most important one. If this folder is blocked, all (or near-all) of your CSS is also blocked. If your CSS is blocked, the search engines have no idea what your page is supposed to look like. 

JavaScripts also affect layout in some cases, so don't make any special effort to unblock only CSS specifically. Just unblock the whole folders, by deleting the corresponding lines from robots.txt.

Once all these are unblocked, Google will see your site as it truly is, and judge its mobile usability accordingly.

Make sure you fix this mobile usability miscommunication soon, before you lose search ranking!