Responsive website design “responds” to your browser of choice – plain and simple. In essence, whether you visit a website from a smartphone, tablet or desktop, a responsive website immediately delivers an optimal viewing experience and minimizes scrolling, panning or resizing. It eliminates the traditional difficulties of viewing a website from a mobile device and allows a site visitor to interact with a site just the same as you would on a desktop computer. Unlike the traditional mobile version, responsive sites use the same URL and HTML and therefore, you no longer need to build 2 “copied” versions of your site to cater to mobile and desktop visitors. Your website looks great regardless of what device is being used to browse and view it. It immediately contributes to a positive user experience and allows users to take action, contact your organization, complete a transaction or immediately research your product or service without the challenge of viewing. And with research starting to suggest that mobile internet access will overtake desktop access by 2014, its time to start catering to mobile users. An article by Forbes has gone as far to say that businesses who rely on their website to build business need to make responsive website design their top priority of things to do in 2014. They also explain that businesses risk going out of business if they don’t transition. Whether there is any truth in that remains to be seen, but there are some tremendous opportunities available to businesses who move to a responsive website now.
I always love showing a responsive website for the first time. Take this blog page for example. Grab the side of the browser window and shrink the browser page. Watch as this page realigns itself for an optimal viewing experience! The site was built to cater to multiple grids and therefore, the layout has been planned according to the screen size.
So what are the benefits to having a responsive website over a separate mobile version? Here are a few.
1. Easier Content Management
By having one site with one domain, you’ll save time by having to add or change content only once, not twice. Remember – having a mobile version of your website in a way is like having 2 distinct websites to manage and maintain. A mobile version of your website is essentially a copy of your desktop site.
This is one of the most important benefits and there are several SEO advantages to have a responsive website. Google has openly stated that responsive design is the recommended mobile configuration and has even gone as far as stating it is an industry “best practice”. Google has placed a great emphasis on user experience in search engine ranking factors and responsive websites contribute to that positive experience. Furthermore, in the search engine world, responsive is easier and more efficient for search engines (like google) to crawl, index and organize content. With a separate mobile version, search engines are crawling and indexing separate and duplicated versions of your site. Separate desktop and mobile versions of your site require distinct SEO campaigns. It’s difficult enough to manage one SEO campaign let alone multiple. So you can co-combine your mobile and desktop keyword strategy under one site administration/URL. And finally, I would rather build links, page and domain authority by concentrating all activity on my responsive site than possibly fragmenting my SEO efforts through a separate mobile and desktop version of my site.
3. The Back and Forth
Let’s say your away from home and you come across an article on your iPhone and you share it on social media or email it to yourself to read it later when your back home and on your home computer. When you, or others click on the mobile URL/version of that article, it will appear exactly as that – a condensed or stripped down mobile view as opposed to a full and proper desktop view. Responsive eliminates varying or fragmented views of your site and delivers a consistent viewing experience regardless of the device it’s delivered on.
4. Desktop View on Mobile
How many times have you been on your smartphone and visited a website, only to be frustrated with the incredibly small text and preview of the site’s content and navigation? You can’t properly read, review or complete a transaction, so you either move on or you struggle with zooming and scrolling until you can see what you want to see. In fact, many times it’s very difficult to even fill out a standard contact us form to send a message to a company. If you rely on your website for revenue, inbound leads or more, a mobile view is important.
Although no direct evident, due to the many reasons already mentioned, when you redesign your website, you’ll gain a lot more mileage out of a responsive website design as opposed a desktop only or desktop/mobile website. If cost is a factor, there are a number of template themes available today that has been built on a responsive framework. It’s a lot easier to pay a little more for a much longer shelf life then it does to have to go through a website redesign all over again in say 2 years time.
6. Your Website is Your Storefront
I attended a recent presentation by a senior economist of the Business Development Bank of Canada who suggested that more than 88% of Canadian consumers make their buying decisions online. It’s profound to think that in almost 9 out of 10 instances, a consumer visits a company website to research a product or service before they ever make human contact. So if your website is your storefront or your first brand impression, does it deliver the impression you desire? How important does your website feel now?
In conclusion, responsive website design offers a lot of very interesting benefits. If you haven’t made the switch, now’s the time.