Haven’t got a responsive website yet? Then I’d recommend you put this right at the top of your list of priorities for 2016. Because 2016 is the year that responsive design becomes essential.
In truth, it’s been essential for a while already. When Google openly recommended responsive design back in 2012, that was the moment when many companies decided to take action. Nothing has changed, and Google still calls responsive design its “recommended design pattern” on the Google Developers site. Here I’ll take a deeper look at responsive design and how you can use it to delight your customers.
A Very Brief Overview
You probably know what responsive design is, but just in case you don’t, a responsive website is one that adjusts to the size of the screen being used to view it. This means no matter how large or small the screen is, the website automatically adjusts to ensure the site provides a good user experience and avoids any of the problems associated with trying to view a desktop website on a mobile device (tiny text, unclickable buttons, etc). Although there are many reasons why responsive design is becoming essential, the most important is the huge shift to mobile that is currently taking place.
Mobile Usage Is Rocketing
We all know that mobile is becoming more important. But how important exactly? Smart Insights provides some good stats on mobile usage in the USA, and among its findings:
Mobile digital media time is higher now than on desktop (51 percent compared to 42 percent).
Mobile use per day is 2.8 hours, compared to 2.4 hours of desktop time.
Mobile search is also becoming increasingly important. According to the “Mobile Path to Purchase” report from Google, when people carry out research using their phones, 48 percent begin on the search engines. That was the reasoning behind “Mobilegeddon,” the Google algorithm update in April 2015 that ensured mobile-friendly sites would rank higher in the mobile search results. An article in the UK newspaper The Guardian with the title “Mobile Internet Is Now Just the Internet” provides a good overview of what is going on. Quite simply, mobile should now be your main focus.
Why Does Google Like Responsive Design So Much?
Google likes responsive design for the mobile experience it provides. But that’s just one reason. eConsultancy covers some of the most important reasons why responsive is the preferred option for Google:
responsive sites attract more links to pages
they can be indexed
they are future proof because the design scales to the size of the screen, which works for both smaller and larger screens
But the real benefit you should be concerned with is that responsive design makes a big difference to the user experience of your site.
Responsive Provides a Better User Experience
Quite simply, a responsive website is better for your visitors. They don’t have the frustration of zooming in, getting lost or having to shrink images or text. Everything happens automatically, and navigation is a breeze. When people don’t find what they want on your site, they leave. This has always been the case, but now it is even more important because some sites are so obviously not optimized for mobile. People now expect mobile sites to be optimized. If you don’t provide your visitors with this, you are simply telling them that you do not care. But if your site looks great, visitors will be far more likely to spend time looking around—and spend their money.
A mobile version of your site, rather than a responsive site, is a possible option. But this can also cause problems. For example, if someone shares a link to your mobile site on social media, people who visit the site on a desktop will get a bad experience because they are seeing the mobile version.
Getting Responsive Design Right
So, you know that you need responsive design, but now you need to implement it. The best way to do this is to find a designer who is experienced in responsive design. However, you will probably want to work closely with your designer, so here are a few techniques you will want to consider to provide the best overall experience for your users.
First of all, sketch out your site using good old fashioned pen and paper. This helps you to better plan the way the site scales because keeping all of this information in your head is complicated.
Page loading times are also essential, just as they always have been. Use compression to create a better user experience, and this will affect your Google ranking as well. Compression technologies such as GZIP will ensure your site loads quickly on any device.
Responsive design allows you to choose which content is most important and to highlight it. During the design phase, identify the content that should appear first when being viewed on a smaller screen. This should be something that grabs the attention of the visitor and encourages them to explore further.
Overall, a good strategy you should adopt is to put mobile first when designing your site, relegating desktop to second place. That way, you will ensure your site is always optimized for mobile visitors, and this will allow you to provide them with the very best experience.
Create the Best Mobile Experience for Your Visitors
If you haven’t got a responsive design yet, make this your priority. If you already have one, could you benefit from giving it an overview? Does it provide a fantastic user experience, or could you make improvements? Use this year as the start of your mobile-first strategy. Mobiles are only going to become more important over the coming months, no matter what you sell. So start off with an elegant and user-friendly responsive website, and build your online marketing strategy around this.