In 2015, Google rolled out a change to the search engine algorithms which now factor in a website’s mobile presence as a ranking signal. This reason alone can justify why responsive design is important!
Simply put, a website needs to be usable on a smartphone.
This includes elements such as:
- readable text without requiring zoom,
- adequate space for tap targets,
- and no horizontal scrolling.
Can you recall the shrunken version of a desktop site on your phone? It was likely not an optimal experience!
The number of smartphone users internationally will surpass 2 billion in 2016.
Websites not optimized for these smaller screens can experience a decline in their search engine rankings.
It’s true: over 60% of searches now come from a mobile device.
To ensure your website offers an experience tailored to handheld devices (without creating a separate app), consider why responsive design is important as a mobile solution.
What is Responsive Web Design (RWD)?
First of all…what the heck is RWD and why should you care?
Well, in the past, more than one site was built in order to accommodate different screen sizes.
Responsive web design creates a system for a single site to react to the size of a user’s device—with one URL and one content source. A responsive website has a fluid and flexible layout which adjusts according to screen size.
It offers an optimized browsing experience.
Basically, your website will look great and work well on a desktop (or laptop), a tablet, and a mobile phone’s browser.
Benefits of responsive design for mobile
The number one benefit of a responsive layout is the guarantee that any user on any device will have the best experience possible on your website. And, the most consistent.
It’s also a great way to refine the content on your site, making sure that those using a mobile device are only seeing the most essential information.
With the Google algorithm update, a responsive web design increases visibility on search engines—because it is mobile-friendly. A site with an effective mobile experience will show up on search results above one without.
Why responsive design is important for business
- Increase reach to customers and clients on smaller devices (tablets & smartphones)
- A consistent experience that can increase lead generation, sales and conversions
- Analytics, tracking and reporting can be consolidated in one place
- Time and cost on site content management is decreased
- Stay ahead of the competition (even 44% of Fortune 500 companies are not mobile-ready at this time!)
Note, that there are two other methods by which to offer a mobile-friendly experience. The first is called Dynamic Serving, which uses the same URL but different HTML and CSS code. Pages recognize the device they are viewed on, and serve up the correct code.
The second method, is a separate mobile site altogether. When users visit on a mobile device, they are sent to a different mobile-specific URL.
As long as the correct steps are taken to optimize fully for mobile users, the most useful method really depends on any given situation. Figure out which works the best for your online presence, before diving into it.
Google accounts for over 5.7 billion searches conducted on the web daily.
Make no mistake about it; the Google-recommended configuration for smartphone-optimized sites is responsive web design.
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How is a responsive design built?
There are number of things to think about when creating a responsive layout. It is a process that requires a design system and hierarchy of content across devices. The key components that go into the design and development of a responsive website include the following:
A Fluid Grid
The grid is a crucial element for creating a responsive layout. It will ensure that the design is flexible and scalable. Elements will have consistent spacing, proportion, and can adjust to a specific screen-width based on percentages.
Flexible Text & Images
The way type should be displayed varies depending on what device a user is viewing your site on, but it should be readable no matter what. On mobile, there is an opportunity to increase font size and line height (the spacing between each line of text) for legibility.
Flexible images can prove to be more challenging because of load times on smaller device browsers. But these images can scale, crop, or be removed depending on what content is essential to the experience.
This is code that powers the flexibility of a layout. Media queries specify the CSS to be applied accordingly, depending on a device’s breakpoint (for example: iPhone portrait orientation or iPad landscape orientation, etc.).
Media queries allow for multiple layouts of a design, which use the same HTML-coded web page.
Other areas that can help define and refine Responsive Web Design for mobile:
The information about how users interact with your site is invaluable and worth investing in, to create an optimal experience for them.
There are many ways you can conduct user testing to get the most useful feedback possible.
Make sure a responsive layout is compatible with all relevant browsers and retains the integrity of your user experience & design.
Don’t rely only on dragging the browser in and out to test a responsive web design for mobile; try viewing a site on as many physical devices as you can.
You’ll be surprised at what may be uncovered from one OS to the next.
As with any design project, find other websites that execute responsive web design in creative ways.
This can be as simple as thinking about the following questions:
- Which websites or apps you frequently use on your mobile phone or other portable devices?
- Why do you prefer one site over others that might provide similar services?
- Do you prefer their mobile experience or desktop experience?
Finding answers to these questions can help you find pain points that you may have never noticed during your everyday browsing.
The future of responsive design for mobile
We now know that Google is requiring the following optimized elements for an effective mobile-friendly user experience:
- Text that is at a readable size, without the need for zooming
- Content which fits a device’s screen, without the need for horizontal scrolling
- Links & buttons which are adequately spaced out, so that tapping is not difficult
- Reasonable load times for pages
- No use of Flash!
The rise in mobile devices is only the beginning of a shift to more convenient web usage. As wearables such as smart watches become more popular, it’s necessary to make sure your website can be viewed anywhere by your users on any device.
Take the Google Mobile-Friendly Test now, to find out where your site stands.
Did you get a green light? Excellent, your website is covered for the Google mobile-friendly update. You may already know why responsive design is important for your website users.
Seeing big red X’s? Start taking the steps towards online strategy that includes an optimized experience for mobile users. Remember, the changes to Google do not affect tablets at this time, but with a responsive web design you’ll be ahead of the game when they do!