Future-proof your Website with a Responsive Design
Internet usage on mobile devices has now reached 52%, overtaking desktop, according to the latest report from IMRG released in September.
As more and more people turn to their phones and tablets to not only use specially designed apps and games, but to find out information and shop online, it’s becoming increasingly essential for businesses to make sure their website is optimised across all devices. But how can you ensure your website delivers a positive and useful experience across desktop, tablet and mobile without designing three separate websites?
The development hailed as the solution to this challenge is responsive design. Responsive design refers to sites which have been built to automatically scale and fit the screen resolution of the device they’re being used on, and work in a way that’s equally intuitive and aesthetically pleasing for both desktop and mobile.
While it might sound simple, delivering the same content effectively across devices makes a huge difference to user experience. To put this in to practice, simply visit Bostonglobe.com or apple.com on your mobile, and compare it to the website of your local takeaway. Chances are, you experience a cleaner and more satisfying visit on the responsive sites (unless your local takeaway just happens to employ some serious digital marketing specialists).
How it works
Before the days of responsive design – skills now pretty much essential in every self-respecting web designer’s portfolio – websites were created in what’s known as tables. These were easy to set up and pleasing enough to the eye at the time, but were designed exclusively for desktop and laptop and in the dynamic and ever-changing world of web design, they have quickly become outdated.
The unprecedented growth in mobile called for a more flexible approach. Responsive design works by responding to customer preference through use of elastic grids and layouts, effectively eliminating the need for multiple designs for different devices by intuitively adapting to each screen size. It uses fluid layouts in addition to CSS media queries, applying various style sheets according to the device being used.
However, responsive design is not just a framework but also a philosophy, built on the idea of designing from the mobile up, and delivering a fluid, dynamic and above all, uniform experience.
Why it works
It makes your customers happy
Whether you need to find information quickly or just want to browse products on a long journey, the last thing you want to do is pull and pinch at an uncooperative, unresponsive site that hasn’t been optimised for mobile. Frustration, inconvenience and dissatisfaction inevitably lead to unhappy customers and ultimately reduced online conversion rates. We live in an increasingly impatient world, and according to Google’s Think Insights, if a user doesn’t immediately find what they’re looking for on a site 61% will bounce straightaway.
Responsive design delivers a superior browsing experience by ensuring navigation, layout and payment processes are simplified and streamlined, no matter what device your customer is using, meaning they can get the information they want quickly and easily. A responsive design gives your brand a confident and forward-thinking identity and above all, provides a useful tool for your customer.
It boosts your SEO
As the world’s largest and most influential search engine, Google only wants to deliver the results that its users will find most useful and return to again and again. And Google loves responsive design.
Google will serve mobile-optimised results for a search query done on a smartphone, and as designing your site responsively means you only have one URL, it makes it easier for search engines to index you. Additionally, if a user searches one of your key words and visits your website only to find it awkward and returns straight back to their search, Google will take note. This could potentially lead to loss in rankings.
Responsive design also ensures you aren’t penalised for duplicate content across devices; all of your content exists just once, cleverly redesigned.
It helps you keep up with competition
If you’re considering going responsive, chances are, your competitors are too. If you don’t provide a convenient and positive experience on mobile and tablet, you push your valuable customers into the waiting arms of the competitor who did.
Some business owners might feel that a responsive design is out of their budget, or too much hassle. This may have been the case a few years ago but today, depending on where and how you design your responsive site, it is so integral that many developers will simply build it into the cost of a redesign. One site also means one CMS, making it easier for you to manage and keep your site up-to-date.
Responsive design is one of those digital marketing trends that is most likely here to stay. We only need to apply it to our own lives; how many times do you check live train departures on your phone? Check in at the airport, or browse the news and sport on your morning commute? Responsive design answers a consumer preference, of information accessibility and browsing on the move, and it delivers a seamless browsing experience to keep that customer coming back.