Why Responsive Web?
A website was once the domain of the desktop. Everything took place within your desktop computer and layouts, architecture, navigation, copy, images, movies, eCommerce and search engine optimisation (SEO) were the keys to a websites success. Then along came laptops and nothing much changed as a laptop was really just a smaller version of your desktop that could travel.
Then came mobile phones and later tablets and the world of websites was forever changed. At first phones made no difference as they were used strictly for, strangely enough making phone calls. But then phones became “smarter” and over time became a medium for viewing websites. In the beginning users were satisfied with stretching out the section of a website they wanted to see in their smartphone – but that quickly waned as an increasingly frustrating experience.
It soon became apparent that a website required the normal desktop version and at a minimum a “mobile” version, which basically was a stripped down form of your main website … if you wanted to reach the mobile smartphone market. Not a lot of graphics and made to load fast – just the information please, we are users on the go.
Mobile websites worked and a whole market grew of web developers who could build a “mobile website” for your company. The coding behind the mobile site determined if the browser was a smartphone or a desktop and automatically showed you the appropriate version. Often it was displayed as m.mywebsite.com. One of the downsides was you now had two (or three if you had a tablet version) websites to keep current, maintain and of course optimise for the search engines. Another was you often were delivering two entirely different brand messages. Experience showed that the mobile versions often languished behind the desktop website.
Facebook and Mobile
Why the fuss over websites that will work in smartphones and tablets? To put it in monetary terms, remember when Facebook was taken public and the value of the shares immediately plummeted? Why was that? The analysts’ fears were that Facebook would not be able to take advantage of the booming mobile market with their advertising. If they could not monetize advertising in the mobile market the financial analysts knew that Facebook would be in big trouble. Did you read about the big jump in Facebook shares (23%) in October 2012 – why was that? Facebook showed revenues from mobile advertising exceeded expectations and grew 14%. If your website does not work efficiently in the mobile/smartphone/tablet market you are dead to the growing majority of your market.
Responsive Web Eliminates the Separate Mobile Web Version
One definition of a Responsive Website is: A website that adapts to the environment in which it is being viewed; thus providing an optimal viewing and user experience.
This means creating a website that adapts to different screen sizes by resizing and reformatting the content. As in the image below there might be a 3-column site with large images and full navigation on a big screen and a single column scrolling site with in-line navigation and smaller images on your smartphone.
Most importantly the content remains the same in each instance.
One Website – One Brand Message – All Devices & Platforms
Responsive Web Benefits
Many times your website viewer wants to find just your phone number or contact information and a responsive website allows for a “click to call” function. No need to try to remember the number and then type into your phone – just click the number and your phone asks if you want to call. It is that simple.
One Website for any application or device – This means you are updating content for only one website and never have to worry if the caller was seeing something that was out of date on the mobile site. Your viewers get the same content no matter what device they view your site. Never again a stripped down version of your website created solely for the mobile audience.
One Website to optimise for the search engines – all of your SEO work carries across no matter the device your customer is viewing your website. The search engines are indexing your one site rather than a mobile version, a tablet version and a desktop version. No longer are you splitting your rankings between web versions and trying to keep the content different on each site while still attempting to deliver the same message.
E-commerce can be responsive as well – Purchases can be made on-line with a responsive website when your eCommerce store is included. The same coding techniques are used for your eCommerce applications thus making them available to all users.
All this good stuff comes at a cost as it is not a simple task to accomplish – but the additional cost of development is far outweighed by the usability you deliver to your website users.
Ian Conklin is the President of OTR Web Solutions a web development company building websites since 2000 with offices in Canada, USA, Europe and South America.