Mobile devices (including smartphones and tablets) are becoming the primary Internet viewing device for many people.
According to Google, nearly 75% of users prefer a mobile-friendly site. Further, 50% of people said that even if they like a business, they’ll use that business less often if its website is not mobile-friendly. Consumers have high expectations for companies to provide a great website experience on every device, and are increasingly less patient with websites that are not mobile friendly. The average website had 20% of its traffic coming from mobile by Q4 2012, according to Bluetrain Mobile and that number is predicted to dramatically increase in the coming year. Clearly, having a mobile-friendly site is no longer just another option.
How do you solve this multi-screen, multi-device problem?
Some companies are solving the problem by creating mobile versions of their sites. This has a few downsides; maintaining two sites is twice the work, and it’s not SEO-friendly to split your traffic this way. The best solution to the multi-screen, multi-device problem is to build a website that works equally well on any device. This is where responsive web design comes in.
What exactly is responsive web design?
In simple terms, responsive websites respond to their environment or device with the most appropriate view: They use “media queries” to figure out the screen size of the device on which the website’s content is being displayed. Flexible images, fluid grids and the site navigation are automatically adjusted to fit the screen. Let’s show you an example. Take a look at the new TEDxRVA website recently launched by circle S studio. When you visit the website on your laptop or desktop, you see the full website.
If you view the website on a device with a smaller browser window, the design changes; different parts are shifted to make it easier to view on a smaller screen. A responsive web design reads what type of device it is on and adjusts automatically to fit the screen. Pretty amazing right?
Does your company need a responsive website?
Responsive design ensures that every user, no matter which device they prefer, will have a great experience. As Mashable puts it, “you build a website once, and it works seamlessly across thousands of different screens.”
Do responsive websites cost more?
A responsive designed website comes with a higher price tag than a non-responsive one, and companies considering responsive should know that going into it. The nature of responsive design necessitates additional planning, design, development, and testing to ensure that the user experience is consistent and optimized on every device. Keep in mind that having a responsive website replaces the need to build a separate, stand-alone mobile site. The fact is, choosing to go responsive should be viewed as a marketing investment. Responsive design is now recommended by Google, and has lost its status as a novelty item on the website wish list.
What if you already have a mobile website?
Now, if you already have a mobile website that is separate from your regular website, don’t feel like you need go right now and change all of it to a responsive web design. If you’re already mobile-friendly, you’re ahead of the curve in meeting the expectations of your prospects and customers. The companies that do not have mobile-friendly sites are the ones turning consumers away.
Responsive web design is the way to go
The main takeaways here are that 1) you’ll lose business if your site isn’t mobile friendly; and 2) web development is moving away from having a separate mobile site and moving toward having one responsive website, at least for the most common website applications. If you’re planning to build a new website, you should at least consider responsive web design.
Tim Asimos is Director of Digital Innovation at circle S studio, an APEX Agency Partner and award-winning strategic marketing and design firm, specializing in results-driven strategy, branding, design and digital marketing services. Founded in 1999, the firm focuses on doing what matters to help middle market companies grow in today’s increasingly chaotic digital landscape. Follow Tim on Twitter.