Why It’s A Critical Component of your Website
Surfing the internet used to be an activity limited to stationary desktop computers and laptops. But times have changed and the majority of all website traffic comes predominantly from mobile phone and tablet devices. Because of this reality, presenting an outdated website where mobile users must zoom-in to read or pan-and-scan, is no longer an option. Today’s users expect more, and if you’re not providing a great user experience, they may easily tire and move on to your competitors.
So what does responsiveness in design mean in regards to a website, you ask? Responsive web design allows a site’s layout to change according to the screen size of the device being used to view that site on. A wide screen display can receive a website design with multiple columns of content, while a small screen can have that same content presented in a single column with text and links that are appropriately sized to be viewed on that smaller display.
Why is responsive web design such a critical component of a website? Here are several key reasons:
Responsive Web Design Supports Multi-Device Users
Websites are not only being viewed on variety of different devices and screen sizes, but the same visitors often return later using different devices. To best support their experience, websites must work well regardless of the device they may be using at any given time. The same content that they have access to on one device must present well when they return on other devices to ensure consistency in information.
If a customer visits a website looking for specific information and they return later on a different device but cannot find that same information (perhaps because you decided to not include it on a “mobile-only” version of the website), you run the risk of that person simply leaving your website and taking their business elsewhere. Consistency of information across all devices, with a layout and experience suited to each individual screen size, helps by not giving them a reason to abandon your website halfway through their overall experience.
One Website, Not Many
It can be difficult enough to keep a single website updated and relevant, but trying to keep multiple websites up-to-date and consistent with messaging is even more of a challenge. This is why a responsive website is much preferred over separate websites for desktop displays and mobile devices.
A “mobile-only” approach is where your website detects whether or not visitors are using a mobile device and, if so, sends them to a separate, mobile-optimized version. This can be problematic for a number of reasons: 1) you now have two websites to keep updated, which means you have just doubled your workload, and 2) most “mobile-only” websites feature a smaller amount of content and features found on the “desktop” website version. As mentioned previously, content and feature differences between versions of the website might frustrate multi-device users expecting access to the same information across various devices. In addition, having a single website to manage and one place to manage it from will make it easier to keep maintained and up-to-date.
Responsive Web Design Improves Search Engine Rankings
Google has recommended using responsive web design to support different devices and screen sizes for quite some time, but the search engine has taken this recommendation a step further recently. They began adding a “Mobile Friendly” label to websites that used this approach when those sites appeared in a search results page on a mobile device.
While this designation was a nice to have, Google said at the time that they envisioned using mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal in the future. As of April 21st, 2015, that came to actualization and Google began rewarding sites that were built responsively for multi-device support. By rewarding sites that are mobile-friendly, Google is effectively penalizing those that are not, making responsive web design an important factor in SEO (search engine optimization) strategy plans.
Every website, regardless of the goals or purpose that it serves will benefit from a display that works great across different screen sizes and on various devices. So if you are hanging on to an outdated, desktop-only website, you are doing yourself and your audience a disservice. Mobile device use is growing at a rapid rate, while desktop use is in steady decline. Adopting responsive web design now will give you the online presence you need to remain relevant for years to come. If you haven’t hopped on the bandwagon yet, we know a great creative agency that can help (hint, hint)!