An Introduction to Responsive Web Design

The mobile phone and handheld device market has exploded over the past 15 years.

Consumers, everywhere you look; on trains, buses at the airport or at work are on their phones and what they are searching for should be of paramount concern to your business.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, this number is set to increase exponentially at a rate now of 22.5 % per year. So what does this mean for your business, website and how are you going to engage this mobile audience now that the majority of searches are conducted via their phones.

The answer is really quite simple. It is called responsive website design.

That is a desktop version of your website that automatically resizes based on the device you are viewing it from. The question that all business owners should now be asking themselves is ‘ is my website responsive’? If the answer is no then it is vital that you start thinking about making it responsive as the ramifications of leaving it till next year or putting it in the too-hard basket is too significant for your business.

Essentially, if your website is not immediately viewable on a handheld device in a responsive format then your customers are simply going to exit and look elsewhere. If they are on their phones and looking for a product or service Australian consumers have come to expect a viewable experience that’s obvious, clear, accessible, and really straightforward. If you put even the slightest hurdle or roadblock in their way the ramifications are enormous. Lost business, reduced brand credibility (imagine Qantas, Virgin or David Jones websites were not responsive). Clients would desert them in huge numbers. Great for the competition but not so good for your business. This is the main reason why you now need to consider responsive sites as an integral part of your marketing mix and online communications.

As a small business owner or even part of a large marketing team, it is more than likely that the responsibility of managing the company websites falls squarely on your shoulders, so it’s important to understand the fundamentals of responsive website design and how it can impact your business.

What is Responsive Web Design?

Basically, it is what it says it is. It quickly responds to the size of the screen you are viewing the site on. It makes the viewing experience much more pleasurable, by automatically adjusting images, content, page layout, restructured navigational elements to fit snugly on the screen. Which theoretically should drive more new business and sales based on the fluidity of the sales process. Ideally, you want to make the customer experience and journey on your website as easy and pleasurable as possible. This will only benefit you by bringing in more sales and inquiries.

Related Article: How to Increase the Sales Conversion Rate of My Website?

It’s really a no brainer; just make it easy for the consumer to buy from you and they will. A great example of what I’m talking about is looking at this blog on your desktop and then try your mobile. You will clearly see what I mean. Smashing Magazine explains the meaning of responsive websites further by telling us that Responsive Web design is the approach that suggests that design and development should respond to the user’s behaviour and environment based on screen size, platform and orientation.

Mobile Versus Responsive Websites

It is important you know the difference between the two. I have already explained the responsive site, but a mobile website is completely different. Many people think they are one and the same when in fact they are not. So how are they different?

1)     a mobile site has a completely different URL structure that begins with an m. So for example we would have the URL where a responsive URL is exactly the same as the desktop.

2)     Having a separate URL for your mobile site means that there are new hosting fees

3)     Because you have a new site this will have an impact on your search engine rankings on Google as this is a new site and independent of your main (probably already established) URL.

4)     Responsive design generally follows the look and feel of the desktop version which is great from a branding perspective but with a mobile site, you can have a completely different design. This has its advantages as you can focus on key areas of the business and radically reduce the size of the website ( to make it easier for the mobile consumer who does not want to read loads of information), to only a few key pages. Again I am on the fence about this but if I would have to weigh up all the pros and cons I would go with the responsive version.

SEO and Responsive Web Design

Watch out because this year Google is going to come down hard on sites that are not responsive.

On the 21st of April 2015, Google will be adding mobile-friendly factors into its organic search ranking algorithm.

–        We have already seen Google highlight mobile-friendly sites next to meta-descriptions and they will now use this when determining to rank a website, depending on the device the search is made from.

–        Google said that on April 21, 2015, Google’s mobile ranking factors will not only label your site as mobile-friendly but will also use that to determine if your site should rank higher in the search results. Google said this algorithmic change will have a “significant impact” in the mobile search results, impacting all languages worldwide.” View article here: Rolling out the mobile-friendly update

–        The quality of the user experience is now at the forefront of successful search engines. Google developers recently stated, “users will find it easier to get relevant, high-quality search results that are optimized for their devices.”

–        The mobile-friendly ranking algorithm will crawl websites on a page-by-page basis as opposed to the traditional site-wide crawl and indexing process. Gary Illyes from Google’s Webmaster trends analysis team advised, “this algorithm is run on a page-by-page basis. So if you have 10 web pages on your website and 5 of them are mobile-friendly and 5 are not, then only pages that are mobile-friendly will benefit.” You can read more about this in the article by Search Engine Land here.

–        This algorithm will also analyse how well a website responds to tablet, notebooks and different types of mobile phone devices. Developing a responsive website will ensure users do have a positive experience on your site regardless of which device they are searching from.

–       Websites that do not evolve in sync with the constantly evolving technological world will inevitably fall behind.

Advantages of responsive web design

Responsive web design benefits web designers, developers, businesses of all sizes and, most importantly, consumers in the following ways:

Lots more mobile traffic

According to Statista, the number of smartphone subscriptions worldwide today surpasses six billion. Furthermore, it is forecast to further grow by several hundred million in the next few years. So just imagine how much extra business you can get from this mobile audience addicted to shopping and browsing on their mobile phones. Plus, with the current COVID situation where people are shopping from home, you need to make this experience as simple as possible, and responsive web design is the key to enhancing the shopping experience. 

Faster mobile development at reduced costs

Making one complete responsive website is cheaper than making a desktop version and a separate mobile version. Plus, it’s much quicker. 

And, with lower maintenance fees as you are paying for one website rather than two, it’s a no-brainer to have a responsive website. But, again, a one size fits all is the best solution for your business needs.

Quicker load times

Mobile users, in particular, have short attention spans. They are on the go and want to find what they are looking for very quickly. Neil Patel tells us that a 1-second delay in page response can result in a 7% reduction in conversion.

Suppose your website has not been optimised responsively for mobile phones. In that case, this may affect download times, and you can expect to have higher bounce rates from customers that land on your website and exit it without delving deeper into other pages. Website page speeds are critical to your SEO rankings and the whole customer experience, so anything you can do to help improve load times should be high on your marketing bucket list.

For other advantages click here.

Responsive website design is now the norm for all sites that are being designed and developed currently – this trend is here to stay and will only grow further.

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