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How Important is Having a Responsive Website?

It's well known, and we have discussed it a few times, Google announced in April 2015, that more preference will be given to mobile-optimized websites in search results. Considering Google owns nearly 90% of search engine share worldwide, any update of theirs draws a crowd, let alone an algorithm change this matter-of- fact.

“Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal,” they wrote on their Webmaster Central blog. “This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results.”

Pretty emphatic, huh?

Yet, in 2015, websites that aren’t optimized for mobile devices still exist. If you’re one of the culprits, what’s your next move? Creating a separate mobile website? Installing a mobile theme?

The answer is mobile responsive web design: One URL, one HTML code, and compatibility with any device.

What is Mobile Responsive Web Design?

Conceived by Ethan Marcotte in 2010, responsive web design is in approach that prioritizes user experience. It minimizes the need to re-size, zoom, or pan a web page across a wide range of devices and provides an optimal reading experience.

As Marcotte outlined at the time in his groundbreaking article on A List Apart, responsive design uses a combination of fluid grids, flexible images, and media queries to give web pages the ability to adapt to whatever size screen they’re being displayed on, regardless of the resolution.

After repeatedly being asked by his clients for an ‘iPhone website’, Marcotte realized that isolating an iPhone experience on a separate subdomain wasn’t the way to go.

He was right.

Along with the millions of smartphone users worldwide, tablet shipment has more than doubled since 2012. Add in laptops, video game consoles, and smart TVs—not to mention those things called desktop computers—and the result is an endless, always-growing stream of digital devices and screen resolutions.

responsive website design

Why Responsive Web Design?

Endorsed by Google

Long before announcing their upcoming algorithm update, Google publically endorsed responsive web design in 2012. As Google’s recommended design pattern, one URL makes things easier for search engines so they don’t have to crawl and index multiple versions of the same website and nearly twice as many pages.

Having one URL doesn’t just help Google, though. It has loads of benefits for you as well, including:

  • SEO: The need to build link authority for only one web address
  • Social Sharing: Only one link needs to be used, preventing confusion and wherever the link is viewed—mobile, tablet, or desktop—the content will be clear and readable
  • Save Money: One URL means only one version of your website needs to be maintained and worked on
  • Save Time: No need to test your website across multiple devices or browsers—it’ll look great everywhere

What about for small businesses? A while back we ran a quick analysis of Right Foot Forward's small local client websites to determine the potential impact of mobile visitors. Short answer is, yes, a responsive website is an essential investment for even small local businesses.

Better User Experience

How many times have you had to wait for a non-responsive, desktop version of a website to load on a mobile device, especially if it contains large images or ads? Then, after the page loads, how often have you had to pan and zoom just to read what you were looking for?

The longer a user has to wait for your site to load, the greater chance you have of them bouncing and going somewhere else to find what they’re after. We’re not talking about a few seconds, either—just half a second could be the difference between a user that stays and converts and one that takes off altogether.

Just look at some of the page speed findings in a study conducted by Strangeloop Networks:

  • 47% of users expect web pages to load in under two seconds
  • 57% of visitors will bounce from your page if load time is more than three seconds
  • 8% of online buyers cite slow web pages as the biggest reason they abandon their purchase altogether

We expect a fast user experience online and aren’t patient when it comes to web page load times. This is the case for desktop and laptop browsing but even more so on mobile devices, when people are on the go and multitasking as it is just by reading an article.

Sure, smartphones and tablets are getting faster by the day, but having a website that follows mobile optimization best practices ensures better readability and faster load times for users.

Responsive web design prioritizes user experience and is content-focused, quickly loading what you’re looking for while also making it easy to read. It’s not surprising that Google emphasizes these elements in search rankings as well, expecting pages on mobile to load in less than one second.

Do yourself a favor and use their PageSpeed Insights tool to see how your website stacks up!

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If you haven’t yet made your website mobile-friendly, Google’s upcoming algorithm update will definitely set you back behind your competitors. Now’s the time to look at responsive web design and the many benefits that come with it.


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Topics: SEO, Responsive Design, Web Design, User Experience