Make Your Website Mobile-Friendly with Responsive Design

Responsive web design for mobile devices.
Laptop, phone or tablet? Responsive design covers them all.

Try this quick experiment: Open a browser on your smart phone and find your company’s website. What do you see? Can you read the text without resizing? Can you navigate it easily?

Now imagine you’re a customer who’s staring at the same little screen. Can you find what you need quickly? Would you call this a convenient, useful experience – or is it a pain?

Once upon a time, all your business needed was a well-designed site that looked good on any old PC. That’s no longer the case, as mobile technologies change the way people interact with the web. Consider these facts:

In a nutshell, that means more customers and prospects will be visiting your site through some kind of mobile device. If your site isn’t optimized for mobile, you’re making it harder for those people to do business with you. According to Google, 61% of mobile users said they’d skip to another site if they couldn’t find what they need “right away.” (They also felt “frustrated” and “annoyed” by companies that “wasted their time” with a bad mobile experience!)

So when my clients need a new website or a redesign, we talk about mobile, too. Using new coding techniques, we can build sites that look and work great wherever their customers choose to view them. It’s called responsive web design. Here’s what you need to know.

What is Responsive Web Design?

InSight Marketing's responsive design
How our website looks to smartphone users.

With responsive web design, one site fits all. The website your customers see on their desktops is still the same one they see on a tablet or phone – with one important distinction. A responsive site adapts to the environment in which it’s being viewed. Your website detects the device in use and adjusts the layout and resolution to provide an optimal experience.

To see what I mean, visit insightmrktg.com on your smartphone (or resize your desktop browser to the same dimensions). Go ahead … I’ll wait. Now, at first glance you’ll notice a few things: our logo and contact number take center stage; the navigation shifts to a simple drop-down menu – easy to tap with a fingertip; the content is reformatted for easier viewing; and the sidebars drop to the bottom, below the key content we want you to read.

That’s responsive web design in action. Without it, our site would get crunched into an illegible mess, and you’d go blind or mad trying to use it. Not great for nurturing relationships.

Responsive Design vs. Mobile Websites

You may be saying to yourself, “Wait – don’t mobile websites already solve this problem?” In fact, you might have already invested in a mobile site (or sites) for your business. But the benefits of responsive design go beyond what you see on the screen, and in fact solve problems that mobile websites create:

More effective mobile SEO. You’d have to develop several mobile sites to suit all of the available screen sizes, and search engines have to crawl them all. With responsive design, search engines only crawl once, increasing the likelihood your content is indexed faster and search results are up-to-date. You also aren’t splitting valuable traffic between multiple sites. In addition, Google recently updated its search algorithms (Panda Update) to punish websites with lower search rankings if they have duplicate content. Visit Google Webmaster Tools to read more about responsive web design and mobile websites.

A consistent user experience. Whether customers find you on a phone, tablet or PC, the branding and user experience is the same. It’s familiar, and they know where to find the information they need. There’s no need for duplicate content or different URLs, which makes it easier for them to link to and share your content via social media.

It’s less work for you. One site to build, update and maintain. One SEO program to manage, with one comprehensive set of analytics. Which means lower costs and less time invested for you.

That’s not to say you should never invest in a mobile website. It all depends on the action you want visitors to take, and how that dovetails with the behaviors and needs of mobile users. If a mobile user wants to find a location nearby (retail), place a quick order (restaurants, pharmacies), change a reservation (travel) or make a last-minute appointment (healthcare, hair salons), a stripped-down mobile site designed around those tasks might provide a more streamlined experience.

But as responsive web design evolves, I think mobile sites will go the way of dial-up modems. And since we don’t know which direction mobile will go next – Google Glass? the iWatch? – I’d say responsive design is your business’s smartest bet.

How do you manage your customers’ mobile experience? Tell us in the comments below.

Photo courtesy of minyo73.

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