It would seem that the current trend in the world of website design and development is “responsive” and rightfully so. It seems everyone wants a responsive site nowadays. If you are someone who deals with online media you’ve probably heard or read about responsive design and might want to know how it applies to you. As a web consultant, I believe that a responsive designed site can add a lot of value for your visitors and in this blog i want to highlight why.
What Is Responsive Design?
In a nutshell a ‘responsive design’ is a website design that changes and adapts to fit whatever device is being used to view the website. The design “responds” to the site visitor’s device and browser. A responsive design is also built to handle multiple input types so that it can be used on a touch device just as effectively as a device with a mouse. You can see what i’m talking about if you simply drag the browser width narrower on any of the sites that Creativ-it have created. You will notice that the horizontal menu will reduce it’s size to a useable drop-down list box (as in the image here). Simple, but very effective!
All Your Stuff in One Place
In the multi-device world in which we live, many people will browse the web on a smartphone, a tablet, and a desktop computer. A good responsive design will display well and be easy to use on whatever device the visitor is using. Many new web technologies make it possible for the same site to work well on both a tiny smartphone and a giant desktop screen.
A responsive design uses the same design for both desktop and mobile devices. A responsive design maintains, as much as possible, consistency between the large desktop layout and the smaller mobile layout. Because it’s a single design for a site, a responsive design also contains all the same information for access on any kind of device.
Responsive vs. Mobile Websites
Although developers have been creating “mobile” websites for quite some time now, the key difference between a responsive design and a site with a traditional mobile design is that the mobile design is usually separate from the main site design. This generally means that the mobile site has different codebase and must be loaded separately from the desktop design. Sometimes, with a mobile site, some website content isn’t available on the mobile site. Responsive design uses the same page content everywhere instead of splitting it up into separate sites.
“What about a mobile app?”
Since responsive design most often comes up when considering users with mobile devices, merchants have asked me about building a smartphone and/or tablet app instead of a responsive design. Apps are all the rage these days, with large app store companies posting big numbers about the number of apps users have downloaded and installed on their smartphones. However, there are a few reasons why i would recommend a responsive designed website to a mobile app.
1. Ease of Access
Using an app requires getting the app from the appropriate app store. A visitor who wants to use a site that only offers a mobile app has to go to the app store, download the app, and only then can they visit a mobile-friendly version of the site. This can be seen as an additional step that the most users do not have time to do. Whereas with a responsive designed site the visitor can simply use the browser already installed in their phone to immediately begin browsing the site.
Additionally, many smartphone users have many apps installed already and are reluctant to add more. A user may not even have the storage space on their phone to add another app. If a website isn’t likely to be used often (e.g. if your website isn’t Amazon.com) then a user is going to be less inclined to install a dedicated app. With a responsive design, the user doesn’t have to install anything.
2. Multiple Platforms/Devices to Support
Because of the way that apps are programmed they are specific to a certain operating system and device type. For example, an Android app won’t work on an iOS device. Similarly, a smartphone app may not work very well on a tablet and vice versa. In order to support all the possible devices, a website will usually need multiple apps, which increases programming time and cost. Because a responsive design is designed to flex to fit different devices and runs in a regular web browser, it works on virtually all devices.
3. Separate Information Management
Because an app (or multiple apps) have to be programmed separately from a website, the information they contain generally also has to be managed separately. The website operators either have to duplicate their content creation and management efforts or create sophisticated technical system to keep all the information up to date. Even then, information for the website may not fit very well into an app. With a responsive design, the information only has to be entered once on the website and it will automatically fit itself to all the devices with which visitors will browse the site.
Why should I care about responsive?
I hope I’ve made a clear summary case for why responsive is the right option for supporting your website on all kinds of different devices. But should you worry about these devices? Why should you care about all these smartphone-using people? Don’t serious customers use desktop computers anyway?
1. Mobile Web Traffic Trends
Mobile device web browsing makes up nearly a third of all web traffic. That’s quite a big chunk of users who are using all kinds of different devices to browse the internet and the number probably isn’t going down any time soon. The percentage of web traffic grew 35% from 2013 to 2014 according to the Internet Retailer report.
What this tells us is that users are only going to be using their mobile devices more and more to browse websites. As a website operator, all those visitors represent potential customers. It’s important to make sure that you’re not giving a third of your visitors a terrible experience on the device they want to use. Implementing a responsive design is like laying out a friendly welcome mat for them.
2. Untapped Opportunity
For many ecommerce merchants, mobile traffic is a smaller percentage of their traffic and a very small percentage of their conversions. Based on this, some merchants have been hesitant to make the jump to responsive design. However, for many of these merchants responsive design could unlock sales and visits that they don’t even know they could get.
If a visitor on a mobile device gets a bad website experience, of course they aren’t going to browse around to shop and buy your products. It’s very reasonable that they don’t visit much and don’t convert. However, if you implement a responsive design to give those visitors a great website experience, you might unlock a whole new category of mobile device sales.
3. Many Device Form Factors
If you’re not already sold on a responsive design, keep one more thing in mind. It’s important to be welcoming to visitors no matter how they come to you and today those visitors have a huge range of devices available for browsing the web. Tablets and smartphones now come in dozens of sizes.
With a responsive design, you’ll be ready for all of these visitors, no matter which device they’ve chosen to use. Even better, your site will be ready for visitors using devices nobody has seen yet because a responsive design adjusts itself to fit whatever device is being used.
I sincerely believe that responsive design is the next big thing, a step that will unlock a whole new way of developing websites. Responsive is the key design consideration! Not only are the benefits of responsive design clearly there for website users but the value will be there for the business too.