First impressions matter for businesses. Increasingly this is demonstrated (or not demonstrated) through their online presence beginning with their website. This is ground zero for customer experience and there’s a lot riding on that first visit. Increasingly that initial interaction is launched via a mobile device, where around 60% of online searches now originate. With nine new mobile phones added every second, keeping pace with users means having a website that easy-to-navigate and understand. In a world where users are researching and browsing the web across multiple device screens, there are still brands that are not putting the best possible experience forward across all devices, losing out on impressing and gaining loyal customers. Here’s why not having a website that works well across all devices could mean you are falling further behind your competitors and turning off potential customers.
How responsive design took over the web
Responsive web design (RWD) has been around for a while but got a big push in 2015 with the event known as Mobilegeddon. This was the time when Google changed its search engine algorithms to include a website’s mobile presence into ranking statistics. Responsive websites are essentially websites that are designed to look good and function well on whatever device is used to access it. The technology works with a single URL and one content source as opposed to the unthinkable alternative: developing multiple sites to deal with all of the different screen sizes out there. With responsive design, the website layout changes based on browser window size regardless of the device. This is different than adaptive sites designed to detect when a mobile device is being used and presents different HTML accordingly. RWD reacts quickly to the screen size that is being used to access a website, changing to become the most ideal experience for that specific viewing layout.
You might ask what happens now if you don’t have a RWD? When not undertaken, the website is referred to as “fixed” and whatever layout is featured on the main website is crammed into the space available on whatever device is in use. It commonly forces the user to scroll horizontally and hides some elements from view. Other parts of the design may render in a distorted way and will look different depending on whether the content is being viewed in portrait or landscape mode. On small smartphones, large images can “break” the layout and websites that are heavy on graphics can take an eternity to load (penalized by Google) leading to very poor overall user experience. Additionally, poor mobile experience has been shown to drive users to competitors’ websites as consumers will go with easier-to-use options.
If additional motivation is needed, decision makers should know that 44% of Fortune 500 companies are still struggling to get mobile-ready, so if you’re smaller and nimbler, here is a golden opportunity to get a drop on the competition.
Why responsive web design is important for search and user experience
There are several rules to responsive design that are considered basic, including never creating text that is too small to read on a phone. RWD also must allow adequate space for tap targets and no cringy and unintuitive side-to-side horizontal scrolling. It should be clear by now that any use of flash is a major no-no and that slow load times are a sure way to lose a customer. Implementation of RWD shouldn’t be considered a trend; it’s a high-priority task that should have been undertaken yesterday.
There are several benefits of responsive mobile design beyond the ability to create a consistently positive experience for eyeballs that find their way to your website. Having strong RWD can have a positive impact on your search engine rankings. In fact, Google explicitly “recommends” RWD for smartphone optimization (meaning you seriously need to do this). They even offer a mobile-responsive test so you can preview the layout and the navigation faced by visitors to your site before you publish it. It’s as easy as entering a page URL and watching for a score. With over 5.7 billion searches executed daily on Google, businesses can’t afford to leave their website experience for mobile visitors to chance. Being mobile-friendly is rewarded by Google who will “see” your site as properly optimized and rank it ahead of those sites not yet featuring responsive layouts. Increased visibility is a clear plus side of going responsive.
Because mobile screens are much more limited in terms of room for content, RWD forces companies to think harder about refining and encapsulating messages in as few words as possible. This is naturally appreciated by the visitor wishing to simply gather some quick intel, but it also helps businesses avoid very common website mistakes. For example, having an unfocused call-to-action is a cardinal sin still committed by many businesses, big and small. Mobile means getting to the point and publishing content that summarizes what a business does, where the customer/visitor is supposed to go next, and how they can the information/product/services they need.
Maneuverability should be intuitive, with simple navigation allowing for users to find their way back to where they have just been with ease. Many users are just looking for fast, basic information, so clarity around important basic information matters and word clutter will only frustrate them. Are title pages clear and contact information up front? On smaller screens, font size will have a huge impact on how well content translates, have you tested how this looks?
The better this experience, the more likely a visitor will take conversion actions. Having a website that can flex quickly and react with content designed to engage and adapt to a specific device can only serve to tip the odds in favor of businesses using RWD.
If you are looking to update or create a new site, contact us here to learn how we can build you a website that helps you meet your business goals (and is responsively designed).