In recent years, the term ‘responsive design’ has become mainstream, referring to web design that responds to a screen size and displays accordingly. We know that it is important for a website to be responsive—especially today as the world becomes increasingly digitized on mobile devices. This post is designed to explore the advantages of having a responsive site and what being responsive can do for online traffic, sales and conversion rates. At the end of the day, a responsive a website provides a better user experience, and, as recently updated Google algorithm posits, the more favorable position a site will receive on the search engine.
It is no secret that mobile devices reign supreme in today’s media climate. In fact, a recent study found that mobile Internet traffic (on tablets, smartphones etc.) outpaced desktop traffic in 2014. More and more, users are expecting to see the same look and feel no matter the device they use. Google, recognizing this trend, incorporated mobile-friendliness into its algorithm. Since April 21st, mobile friendliness, i.e., if a web page can be comfortably read on devices with screens of different shapes and sizes, has become a ranking criterion for websites on Google. Thus, if a page is not responsive and mobile friendly, it will get a negative SEO score and receive a lower ranking on Google Search results. The updated algorithm favors mobile-friendly sites, using a real-time page-by-page basis to determine mobile friendliness, and penalize those sites that display poorly on mobile devices.
Before we get ahead of ourselves, a working definition of a responsive website or web page is essential. Clearly put, a responsive website is an approach to web design aimed at crafting sites to provide an optimal viewing experience—easy reading and navigation with a minimum of resizing, panning, and scrolling—across a wide range of devices (from desktop computer monitors to mobile phones, tablets etc.) Keeping this in the back of our minds, now we can go through the advantages of this approach.
The first advantage of a responsive web page is a no-brainer; that it is a cost effective solution. One of the key tenets of responsive web pages is whether or not a site functions on a variety of devices. Having a single website that responds to mobile, desktop and tablet provides an easier format for users and is also much more streamlines to manage from a cost and resource perspective. Many business owners or site publishers feel the burden of having to manage, update, and maintain multiple web properties across different operating systems and platforms. This can weigh heavily on a small business.
Web designers can also save time and money by streamlining their SEO efforts into one campaign. Thus; one website, one SEO campaign. This eliminates the need for unique strategy for each aspect of the website. For instance, there is no need to have a ‘mobile specific SEO strategy’ with specific keyword phrases and advertising copy. With a responsive web design with a succinct SEO campaign, all visitors will be directed to a single site no matter the device they search on.
The second advantage of responsive web page design is (quality) user experience. On a responsive designed web page, a user should have the same experience–down to the look and feel of the site–whether they are using a desktop computer, laptop, tablet, smart phone, you name it. The time spent on site should be seamless; regardless of a user’s’ device of choice they need to be able to read text, fill out forms, and get the content they want to see without any frustrations on your site. This means no extreme zooming in or poor formatting layouts. If a user has a positive experience on your responsive site, they are more likely to stay and less likely to bounce back to the search results. This increases the likelihood of a user being converted into a lead or buying customer.
Speaking of lead conversion, studies show that responsive web design leads to an increase in sales and conversion rates. Web and mobile developers around the world find that users report positive experiences with responsive design as it removes barriers that having multiple sites can present, such as functionality, performance and consistent look and feel. Additionally, responsive web pages often result in improved site experiences as there is no need for redirection or use of standardized Style Sheets (CSS) across devices to change HTML language. Putting this all together, responsive web pages result in a unified design approach across all channels, and the creation a consistent look and feel. Consistency in the user experience results in familiarity with your site or system use across devices and site navigation. This familiarity will have a positive impact on your conversion rates.
Another important advantage to be aware of concerning responsive web pages is that Google will rank your site higher if it is responsive, as mentioned previously. Since 2012, Google has stated that its algorithm prefers responsive design (and its capabilities for mobile devices). The most recent update to its algorithm reinforces Google’s dedication to mobile-friendly pages. It is important to remember while that this algorithm update only applies to Google search results on mobile devices, mobile is not just “a trend, but the trend” as our CEO and Founder Kelly Cutler affirms. Websites that are not responsive are likely to suffer the consequences as a significant portion of consumers are conducting their searches on smartphones and tablets,” as this report found. The way the algorithm works, mobile-friendly websites get a boost in the rankings… while websites that are not responsive and optimized for mobile devices will get their ranking decreased.
Responsive web design is key to to stay ahead of the trend. As the demand for media rich mobile internet and apps is growing everyday, there are several important implications to address such as development and maintenance costs, visibility in search engines and improving your conversion rates. While some of these items take more time than others, responsive design is the key to leading the way while establishing market share. These elements in mind summed with the increase in tablet sales (42% of American adults own tablets) and smartphone device use exploding (58% of American adults own smartphones) cement the necessity for moving forward into the future of web design.