What device are you reading this on? Is it a laptop or perhaps a tablet or a smartphone you’re thumbing through?
Just take a look around you, people are busy browsing their hand-held devices everywhere. With the plethora of mobile devices available on the market, it is hardly surprizing that more people are using mobile devices to access the Internet than desktops. A new comScore report found that 11.3 percent of Americans are using smartphone or tablet devices exclusively to access the Internet and the number is just 10.6 percent for desktop users. According to comScore, this was the first time mobile-only users in the U.S. surpassed desktop-only users. What is more interesting is that, this trend is likely to continue over the coming years.
Businesses therefore need to adapt themselves to cater to the changing behavior of their online customers. They need to provide customers with the best online experience and engage with them the way they are more comfortable, i.e. via mobile devices. So how to make this happen?
Of course businesses need to have a mobile friendly website, without which it is almost like committing a business suicide. That said, you need to understand that the days of having a separate standard website and a mobile website are long gone. Today, it is more about having a single responsive website that adjusts to various screen sizes, be it a desktop, laptop, tablet or a smartphone. But before getting into the details, let’s take a look at what encouraged us to take steps towards responsive web design.
What Was Wrong with Separate “Mobile” Websites?
Since the very first day of Internet enabled mobile phones, people have been accessing information on the go. In fact, this is what encouraged more and more mobile users to opt for Internet enabled hand-held devices. From checking the weather and train times to browsing products online, mobile phones were gradually becoming the first choice of netizens. But in the initial days, it was rather difficult to browse a standard desktop site on a mobile device, given the difficulty in navigation, slower download and of course the big bills. The overall user experience was poor too.
Realizing the need of the Internet-enabled mobile users, many businesses started creating a mobile version of their website. In fact, this was the trend until fairly recently. These mobile websites, with reduced content and functionality, are totally different from their larger desktop versions. Basically, they are the toned down version of their desktop siblings, meaning they provided the very basic content and functionality.
Today’s mobile devices also vary in screen sizes and capabilities. This brings us to another issue with mobile websites: What device should you build your website for? Obviously, you can’t create one mobile website for tablets and another for smartphones and so on.
Responsive web design therefore comes across as the inevitable choice.
Understanding Responsive Web Design
Responsive Web Design or RWD allows you to lay-out and code a website in such a way that it provides your users an optimal viewing experience. It makes reading and navigation easier, irrespective of the user’s device and requires minimum panning, re-sizing and scrolling. The best part of responsive web design is that it eliminates the need to create and maintain separate websites for mobile and desktop versions.
As the name suggests, it allows a website to flex and adapt, depending on the screen size of the user’s device. This means, a person viewing your website on a smartphone will see the same content and functionalities as one navigating it via a desktop computer. The website will automatically reformat itself to provide the best possible user experience. The loading time is also less. Besides, responsive web design takes interaction into account and allows navigation via touch screens.
Now that you have an idea what is responsive web design, let’s take a look why it’s important for your website.
#1. Google Loves Responsive
Responsive websites are clean, there are no issues with redirects and/or other URL issues. Besides, separate mobile websites are not updated as frequently as your standard websites. Having one single responsive website ensures that it gets redesigned regularly and is indexed more often. In fact, Google loves responsive web design. According to its recent mobile friendly update, Google is “boosting the ranking of mobile-friendly pages on mobile search results. Now searchers can more easily find high-quality and relevant results where text is readable without tapping or zooming, tap targets are spaced appropriately, and the page avoids unplayable content or horizontal scrolling.”
In fact, the search giant actually recommends a responsive web design approach for better ranking on its result pages.
#2. It is Cost-Effective
Apart from providing faster and better user experience, responsive web design is a cost-effective solution. You can cater to both desktop-only and mobile-only users through one website. This unified approach saves both your time and money when it comes to website building, support, management and upgrades. That being said, it usually takes a little longer to create a responsive website. But considering the advantages it offers, you will hardly mind investing that extra time in the initial period.
Besides, responsive web design is future proof. Given the popularity of mobile devices and the fact that responsive websites are agnostic to various devices, it is safe to say that they aren’t going anywhere soon.
#3. Optimal User Experience
Aside from discoverability and content, what plays a significant role in your website’s success metrics? Of course the user experience; the way users interact with your website and consume the content largely affect their experience. The responsive web design ensures that this interaction is seamless, irrespective of the device they are using; thus making is easier to engage with your customers.
This, in turn, also improves your conversion rates.
More than a trend, responsive web design is a necessity now. It offers the way forward to allow online users to browse digital content on a spectrum of diverse experiences. Instead of compartmentalizing your website content into device-specific experiences, responsive web design approach lets you provide an optimized experience to your users, regardless of their device. It goes without saying that such approach is long lasting in nature and is incredibly valuable for businesses of all sizes and status.
The Author: Wynn is the founder of Novage Communications – a leading web design company in Singapore. She specializes in SEO and loves applying her skills to help local clients. She has successfully set up a baby online store in Singapore http://novage.com.sg/