In 2016 more people used a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet to access the Internet than a desktop computer. Since then, the number of people with a smartphone has grown considerably and web usage has become even more omnipresent in our lives. This new normal for Internet access affects website owners who want to attract more traffic, convert visitors to leads, customers, or clients, and make more money with an online business.
The answer to this continuing surge in mobile access is responsive web design. If your website is not responsive, you will lose out on the largest chunk of potential audience members.
What is responsive web design?
Although more complicated on the inside, the basic definition for a responsive website is one that can easily and smoothly change sizes to look great on any screen. Every website can load on a smartphone or tablet, but if the graphics take over the whole screen or everything is minimised to an unreadable or unusable level it is not responsive.
Responsiveness has to do more with changing the layout automatically to display an appropriate number of columns of content based on screen dimensions. Graphics may be reduced to smaller thumbnails, menus may get hidden behind a hamburger icon, and sidebar widgets show up elsewhere or in a simplified form. Site visitors can read text clearly and will not have to scroll horizontally to see everything.
How is responsive web design implemented?
Although site designers handle all the behind-the-scenes programming that goes into responsive web design, it is helpful when adding content to understand how it works. Most sites work on a type of framework, such as the popular Bootstrap, that page elements are attached to. Change the size of the screen and the framework condenses appropriately. The code can also resize images based on other content, change the image viewed based on screen size, and instruct content blocks to rearrange themselves automatically.
Hiring a skilled developer makes sense if you want a custom solution that attracts both desktop and mobile users. For those without the budget or need to a bespoke site look, an exhaustive collection of responsive templates are available for HTML and CSS sites and those that use a popular CMS like WordPress or Drupal.
The top three benefits of responsive web design
When you combine the number of people using their phones to access the Internet and the understanding of what responsive website design does, it seems obvious that you want this for your personal or professional pages. Other more specific benefits exist.
Single Site Setup
If website owners wanted to attract both stationary and mobile visitors in the past, they would need to have multiple websites with different designs. Working responsiveness into your main pages negates this need.
The end result is less work necessary to build, maintain, and update the sites. Imagine posting a new blog article, updating price lists, or announcing a special sale three times instead of just one.
Less work usually translates into lower costs as well. Not only would design and development take longer, but you would need to pay more employees to cover all the changes and potential problems that arise. Another consideration is marketing. If you have two or more websites, where do you put your advertising budget? How do you market each one effectively?
Responsive website design lets you focus your attention, time, and budget on a single site without compromising your ability to reach the maximum number of target audience members.
Improve User Experience and Impression
Obvious usability benefits exist when a person comes to your website from their smartphone or tablet. Responsive design also makes larger scale access more comfortable. Not everyone searches the web at full screen resolution. If they want to access two sites side-by-side, some of the responsive features may come into play. No one wants to scroll sideways on their desktop screen either.
When not constrained by the borders of the small screen, resizing a window is quite simple. However, the easier you make it for people to enjoy every page on your site and to navigate between them, the better impression they will have of your business or organisation.
Responsiveness leads to faster load times too. Everyone has high speed Internet these days, especially when mobile computing. If your page takes more than two or three seconds to display the desired content, people will click or swipe away. Mobile users frequently access the web in short bursts when on the bus, waiting in the doctor’s office, or in line at the bank. Whatever they look up, they need it to appear quickly.
Better still, both new and existing customers and clients appreciate seeing the same thing no matter where they access your site from. There is no confusion or delay involved. Internet experience and research shows that people are not likely to stay on a site or return to it if they are confused or feel it wastes their time. Responsive web design is a bit of hands-off customer service that improves your online reputation.
Boost Website SEO
Google first recommended responsive web design in 2015. Since then the most popular search engine in the world has increased benefits for those individuals and companies who heeded their words. The associated lower bounce rates and increased backlink possibilities from quick shares also help.
Google and other search engines started boosting mobile-friendly sites in the results pages. Of course, other search engine optimisation techniques must be in place as well, but no matter how great your content is or strong your backlinks are, do not expect to rank that well if you have old-fashioned, unresponsive design.
This new mobile-first indexing focuses on the mobile version of certain websites instead of the larger, desktop-accessible one. In their quest to bring the best quality and most helpful results to searchers, they push mobile pages because that is what people use to browse these days.
Mobile-first indexing is an ongoing process for the search engine, but as more and more people use handheld gadgets to access online space, it makes sense that Google will continue to rank mobile site versions more. This is another excellent reason not to have multiple versions of the same web pages. Luckily these days, there is no need.
Responsive design is crucial
No matter what you build your website for, you want the maximum number of people to be able to access it comfortably. With the ever-increasing percentage of mobile users, it makes no sense to avoid responsive web design. With the above five benefits and more, it is easy to see that website responsiveness is essential for personal or professional success on the Internet.