to be responsive or not
that is the question.
Or, in other words, what’s the difference between your website being mobile, unresponsive or responsive?
What’s in your pocket, on your desk, sat next to you or maybe even in your hand right now? If you answered a mobile phone, then you’re only half right.
It’s actually a portable gold mine of information.
In our list of 9 things your website must be, we highlighted the importance of your website looking good on a mobile device, especially since Internet use on a mobile phone more than doubled between 2010 and 2013. A 2012 survey of mobile users by Google also found that 72 percent of people thought it was important that a website was mobile-friendly rather than unresponsive.
An unresponsive site is basically just a regular website, usually set at a standard of 960 pixels wide, it looks exactly the same on a mobile as it does on a desktop. It is not optimized to fit devices or screen sizes other than a desktop, so when you view it on a mobile device you would have to zoom in every time you wanted to read text or click buttons. A slightly frustrating user experience to say the least.
To avoid infuriating your visitors, a website can be designed to be ‘mobile-friendly’ in one of two ways;
A mobile website
This is a separate version of a ‘main’ website that the user gets redirected to when they’re viewing it on a mobile or tablet. Its main purpose and benefit is to provide an optimised view for targeted devices. Because it’s built separately from the main website, it requires separate design, development and SEO. Having been specifically designed to be viewed and navigated on a mobile device, one of its greatest strengths is usability however, mobile sites are not usually built to target more than one device size, so they won’t respond to any other device sizes.
A responsive website
Like the famous, small plasticine man, this is a website with the power to morph! It’s a clever way of optimising your website to fit various devices and screen sizes. Best of all, it’s built onto your current site so it doesn’t require separate design, development or SEO. Like a mobile site its layout can be adapted so that its navigation relates to the device a visitor is using; responsive development can literally tell the website to change its layout when needed.
Now that you know your visitors would prefer your site to be mobile friendly, which option should you go with, mobile or responsive? Here are a few reasons why we think going responsive is the best option;
Usability plays a huge part in whether a person decides to stay and explore your website or gets fed up after a few minutes and goes somewhere else.
For example, if Mr Jones has average ‘manly sized’ fingers, using a small touchscreen can be a challenge if he has to zoom in a million times just to read a sentence or click a tiny button on an unresponsive website. If the website was responsive, he would have nicely sized, readable text and chunky, easily clickable buttons, making it easy for him to find the information he needs. Any visitor’s user experience should involve minimal effort. After all, isn’t that one of the main reasons we have websites in the first place?
If you don’t already know how important SEO is for your website, check out our handy guide to SEO. Having a separate mobile and desktop website will require separate SEO strategies for each, which is not only time consuming but also doubles the results you’ll need to achieve in Google’s ranking. Responsive websites don’t require different campaigns or strategies, they just use the website you already have, making it easier for Google to crawl more of your site. When you become responsive, your website’s current Google Analytics will contain information about multiple devices within your report. But don’t take my word for it, Google have recommended a responsive approach, deeming it as best practice for developers like me!
When you improve your user experience, you’ll start to see more concrete benefits than just happy visitors. A consistent look and feel to your website allows visitors to become familiar with site structure, functionality and navigation. And because responsive elements are built into your current site, performance and loading times aren’t affected. An enhanced user experience is a key element in improving conversion rates and there are more than enough examples out there of high profile business who saw mobile conversion rates for their websites improve substantially.
This might have more to do with me being a control freak than anything else but, as a developer, one of the things I love about responsive websites is their ability to adapt. You can tell it precisely what it needs to do when it’s being viewed on different screen sizes, and that’s precisely what it does! Meaning that you can be safe in the knowledge that your business is now accessible from as many devices and screen sizes and tablets and androids and desktops as it can be. Not only that, but it’s also easy to navigate, easy to read and as pretty to look at as it is on your desktop. Hurrah!
I’ve given you my opinion as a developer, but in my experience as a former sole trader, constant seeker of information and ‘mostly-online-except-for-food-shopping’ shopper, I would always advise to go responsive. It improves usability, saves time, saves money and it’s efficient. Even Google says so.
And if that didn’t convince you, I’ll leave you with this sobering thought; mobile internet users will surpass desktop users before the end of 2014. So you’d better get your responsive skates on!
Written by Cheralyn Nadal, Web Developer
Digital Marketing, Technology