One of the most common questions I receive when discussing a website project with a potential client is "will it be responsive?" For quite some time all the major search engines have been actively demoting websites that do not have responsive layouts. So, the answer to this question should always be "yes" regardless of the available budget.
What is Responsive Web Design?
Responsive design is in place when a website layout properly adjusts itself to the viewer's unique screen size. It has become immensely popular since the rise of smartphones in the early 2000s and became essential within the past several years.
How Does it Work?
The content of the website typically doesn’t change across devices. Instead, the theme carries detailed instructions on how to display that same content on different screen sizes. The good news is that almost any modern framework will incorporate responsive design elements from the start. Bootstrap, NationBuilder public themes, and most WordPress themes automatically adjust based on whether a computer, smartphone or tablet is in use.
When a webpage is loading the browser typically conveys which device or screen size is being used. Using mainly Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) the appropriate design elements are pre-configured for displaying the content. Website visitors generally remain blissfully unaware of this internal design working behind the scenes. They immediately see the end result in the form of a properly formatted website.
Why Should You Always Utilize a Fully Responsive Design?
There are a number of reasons why a web designer should always deploy a fully responsive layout. Let's quickly delve into what these factors are and why they are important.
1. User Experience Benefits
Have you ever opened a webpage on your mobile device only to be met with an advertisement filling the entire screen? In this situation you generally won’t be able to see the desired content unless you zoom out. Some visitors may take the effort to pinch the screen and find the close button, but many will simply browse to another site. Minimizing this drop-off rate is imperative to driving up page traffic.
There was a time not long ago when people would exclusively use desktop computers to view the web. In that sense working on user experience design was easier then because there was limited variation in screen resolution and height-to-width ratio. But now there are regular releases of new smartphones, tablets, desktops, laptops, and other devices to contend with. To ensure a high-quality experience a user needs to be able to view a page across all these devices with a consistent look and feel.
2. Search Engines Love Responsive Sites
Google ranks websites with responsive designs higher in its search results. Google’s spiders are capable of analyzing the website’s code and understanding whether its responsive or not. If it is responsive, then its rankings get a slight nudge upwards. Otherwise, the website is pushed to a lower rank.
It's fairly easy to understand why Google ranks a website with responsive design higher:
- Responsive sites have a single URL for the homepage. Non-responsive sites often have multiple URLs pointing to the same content but catering to mobile and desktop devices. Google’s search algorithms penalize duplicate content and using different URLs for same content still falls under the hard-to-interpret category for its search algorithms when they decide whether a website is genuine or a copy of another website.
- User experience is much better with responsive designs. Google wants to show websites delivering better user experience higher in its search results. In this sense, Google is subtly curating the content it promotes at the top.
- Google now uses a different search algorithm with a different set of parameters for mobile searches. A website which is not responsive risks the danger of being pushed down the rankings in mobile searches even though that site might be ranked higher in desktop searches.
Google holds 69.89% market share among all search engines. Simply put, nearly 70% of all internet searches are being conducted on Google. So, if your site is ranked lower due to its non-responsive design then you stand to lose significant amount of virtually free traffic to your website.
3. Mobile Traffic is Still Growing
Around 56% of all internet traffic is now from mobile devices and this percentage is growing every day. If you have viewers coming from social media referrals this traffic has even higher probability of being from mobile devices. This is simply because a majority of users now access social media on their smartphones.
If your website is not responsive, then all this traffic will have a low quality experience. This will not only increase the bounce rates (i.e. percentage of visitors who don’t navigate on your website past the page they initially landed on), but it will also have a serious negative impact on your repeat visitor stats.
4. Competitors are Already Mobile Friendly
If you have deployed a website recently then you should be in sync with what the industry and your competitors are already doing. With all well-managed websites going for responsive layouts in the past few years, the ones not yet optimized for mobile are bound to lose out to their competitors. If the same service or content is delivered by your competitor with a much better layout and superior user experience then why will people come to your website?
If you have a website and you want to ensure that it correctly adjusts for every screen size please get in touch.Prev: NationBuilder and WordPress...