A revolution is taking place in how people access the Internet. Up until a few years ago, a PC was pretty much the only way. But as we enter 2014, the number of “mobile” devices that can access the Internet has grown tremendously.
In fact, sometime this year, it’s projected that more smartphones and tablets will access the Internet than standard PCs. Also, sales for personal computers are declining, while sales for smartphones and tablets are increasing – 2012 was the first year of lower PC sales since ’01.
We’ve spent a little time in prior posts discussing the importance of mobile capability, and how you need to at least consider it to ensure ALL visitors to your site have a seamless experience. After all, it’s estimated that nearly 80% of visitors will leave a site that’s performing poorly. There’s also an “…SEO imperative” to having a properly-scaled mobile version according to Stephen Bradley, account manager and SEO consultant here at SEO Advantage.
So what’s a website manager to do? Do I need to design different sites based on the device?
In the beginning of the mobile craze, there really wasn’t any option except to design a site as best you could for the particular device. However, with a multitude of smartphones and tablets now available, that’s an impossible task to undertake. And according to Stephen, when you design separate mobile sites, you end up splitting your PageRank and page authority between the various sites. As far as Google is concerned, you have 2 or more separate sites, which can hinder your chances of having sustained page 1 rankings.
Enter responsive design, which allows you to build one site that’s flexible to all devices
Unlike a static “unresponsive” design that looks the same regardless of which device you access it from, a responsive design “responds” to the environment, or device that’s accessing it. Through “media queries,” the site determines the resolution of the device.
Responsive web design is also characterized by flexible images and fluid grids that can adjust to a desktop, IPad, Android smartphone, or whatever.
When a site designed for a desktop tries to display on a screen that, in most cases, isn’t even 10% the size of a desktop, the user will have to do a lot of side scrolling to see everything. Survey after survey shows, and you’ll probably agree, side scrolling adds a lot of friction and frustration.
The more frustration you have, the more people will bounce off…
Responsive design was developed to help deal with this friction and frustration – is it something I should be considering for my site?
If you do a Google search for responsive web design, most of the results will proclaim that everyone should be redesigning their site with responsive rather than unresponsive. One reason of course is mentioned above – the sheer numbers of mobile smartphones and tablets out there today. Anybody who doesn’t consider the impact of mobile devices on their business will eventually lose their competitive edge online.
And if you’re already have mobile versions of your site, you may want to consider a responsive design. This will mean uniform URLs regardless of which device someone is using. This of course will help improve your rankings since, as Stephen explained, you won’t be splitting things up to accommodate all the devices out there.
However, there are some drawbacks – it takes longer to implement, which of course means higher initial cost. But when you consider the cost of not keeping up with trends, this initial cost seems insignificant.
Some critics of responsive design claim it limits your design options, and that you may end up with a site that doesn’t look as nice. But according to our webmaster and Art Director Gaby Zapien, “…a carefully designed responsive site can be as beautiful and eye-catching as any other site. In fact, the desktop visitor might never know that the site is responsive until the window is scaled down.”
So for an answer to our question in the headline – it really depends on your situation, but it’s always smart to think long-term. We generally recommend responsive design to our customers unless they have some sort of platform-specific app that won’t work. As always though, you should take a step back and evaluate your audience, what devices they are using, and for what purposes are they using them (i.e. conversions vs. browsing) before spending lots of time and money – in the end, you may only need responsive design for a few pages.
What are your thoughts on responsive design?
Have you embraced the responsive coding as a way to make your sites more mobile friendly?
Did you see increased rankings, visitors and conversions?