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Meredith Dunn
By Meredith Dunn

Meredith is a BECK Digital enthusiast with a weak spot for business planning, full cycle digital marketing and killer content.

With more Google searches taking place on mobile devices than on desktop computers these days, building a website that is accessible across a variety of devices is crucial for business. Responsive web design, or website design that adapts to any screen size, is quickly becoming necessary to remain competitive online and appeal to mobile users.

Investing in a responsive site should be a no-brainer for businesses. Mobile use and mobile shopping rates are booming. As of April 2018, worldwide mobile use amounted to 3.827 billion unique users, and that number is only expected to grow through 2021. If you haven’t considered responsive design, now is the time to get going!

Responsive design guarantees a smooth user experience and better customer engagement. Not only is it important for customers, but responsive sites seriously boost search engine rank, leading to more traffic, exposure and business. But before we dive into how and why responsive design benefits your business, let’s review the basics.

What is responsive design?

Users should be able to easily use your website and find what they’re looking for on any device – responsive design guarantees that. Responsive design simply means that a website is specifically designed and developed to display and function across a variety of device screens. Responsive web design optimizes (or improves) the user experience (UX) so browsing and interacting with a site is seamless whether on desktop, mobile or tablet. This means that the site design and structure render well and quickly on any screen, elements automatically adjust for easy use and viewing, text scales for readability, performance adapts to specific device needs, and navigation between pages is smooth and intuitive. Unnecessary features may also be hidden on certain screen sizes so the most important information always remains visible.

How is responsive design different than mobile design?

First things first, a responsive site is actually quite different from a mobile-friendly site. A responsive design changes based on the device screen size. For example, images, layout, and text quickly and automatically resize to fit different screen constraints. An easy way to tell if a site is responsive is to test it on your desktop browser: simply reduce your browser window size to resemble a narrow mobile phone screen, and if the text, images and menu change as the window size decreases, the site is responsive.

When it comes to mobile-friendly design, this just means the site is accessible on mobile, but the features and layout don’t automatically adjust to fit the mobile screen. It’s like taking the desktop version of a website and trying to view it on a tiny mobile screen. The site will appear and function on mobile just as it does on a desktop screen, however, there aren’t any special coding modifications made for usability or performance. Oftentimes, navigation on mobile-friendly sites is difficult and custom-coded features won’t work at all because these elements are programmed for desktop use.

Reasons small businesses should have a responsive site

While responsive design does require more development expertise, technical planning and usually a larger budget, it can make a big difference to the user experience (UX), Google search engine rank and customer engagement.

Responsive design centers around optimal UX, so you can’t ignore this business idiom: the customer is always right. If they want a slick and accessible site that runs well on mobile, it’s wise to invest in responsive web design. And if a large portion of your web traffic comes from mobile devices, your business should pursue a responsive website asap. According to Google studies:

  • 36% of mobile users said they felt like they’ve wasted their time by visiting a site that isn’t responsive.
  • 52% of users said that a bad mobile experience made them less likely to engage with a company.

If users are unhappy with your mobile site, they’ll probably go elsewhere (your competitor’s site) to find the services they seek. Are you willing to risk that fast-growing mobile population? Or lose users to your competitors?

Boost your SEO efforts 

User satisfaction isn’t the only reason to go responsive. Here’s how responsive sites impact your search engine optimization (SEO) and rank: Googlebots (the robots that crawl your site to index it in their search engine) don’t have to work as hard to process a responsive site, since the site loads more quickly. According to Google, sites that load quickly, run well on mobile and meet responsive standards score higher when it comes to search rank. The higher your placement in search engines, like Google, the more visibility and web traffic you’ll generate.

It’s also important to use the same HTML, or code, for your website rather than have two different sets of code for a desktop site and a mobile site. Creating one responsive site with one set of code will go a long way to boost your rank with Google. You may think that building a separate mobile site is smart for mobile users, but it’s an SEO-killer with Google. If you’re running two different sites for desktop and mobile, Google has to work harder to search and index two similar sites. Google doesn’t want to store more information than it needs to, and it’s unlikely you want to create and manage two different HTML sites either. (Plus, when you start running SEO campaigns, you’ll get more bang for your buck running one campaign for a beautiful, responsive site than running two campaigns for two sites.)

Everyone loves speed

It’s not only search engines that love speed – web users crave fast load times. Did you know that 40% of people abandon a website if it takes more than three seconds to load? If your site isn’t using loading quickly, you’ve already lost potential sales and conversions. Yikes. And sites that have lower bounce rates (the rate at which users leave your site), also rank higher in Google search results. If you want to show up in Google search results and keep users on your site, responsive design is the best solution.

Responsive design ensures faster loading and an engaging user experience. Users won’t stay on your site if they have to zoom or squint to read your text. If they can’t click links, find information or use certain features on your site, they’ll look for it elsewhere. Like we said earlier, if your site isn’t responsive, potential customers lose faith in your brand, and chances are, they are finding what they need with your competitors.

Increase online sales

Responsiveness is especially important for mobile shoppers and online storefronts. As of December 2017, 82 percent of online users in the United States used a mobile device for online shopping, with 35 percent being mobile-only online shoppers. If you sell services and products online, you can’t afford to skip on responsive. The more you can streamline and simplify the shopping experience, the more likely you are to retain mobile shoppers. Shoppers want easy check-out and payment processes and as few clicks as possible. Responsive design makes for a more intuitive checkout process on mobile devices, leading to less shopping cart abandonment and increased conversions (i.e., sales!).

A wise long-term solution

There are a few other reasons to consider a responsive site for your business: If you seek less web maintenance, responsive sites usually provide a longer shelf life and require less updating over time. Or if your business has a complex site with custom-programmed features that are difficult to use on mobile, you should consider having your site re-developed so mobile users don’t miss out on functionality, usability, or important information.

Responsive Design Checklist

Here are some quick ways to assess your website performance on mobile. If your site doesn’t pass most of these questions, it’s time to pursue responsive design!

  • Does your site load in less than three seconds?
  • Are you providing a smooth user experience?
  • Is the text large enough to read or do you have to zoom in?
  • Can you easily navigate from page to page?
  • Does your website display in one column for easy scrolling (as opposed to scrolling side-to-side to view all content)?
  • Can you easily click on all links or enter content into form fields?
  • Can you easily find your business’ call-to-action (selling point)?
  • Would you spend time on the site if it were not your own?

Still not convinced?

Experienced web developers, like those here at BECK, are pros in developing responsive websites. Want to see for yourself? Try the responsive test on our website to see how a site adjusts between desktop and mobile!

We can’t overstate the value of responsive design. By providing a smooth experience across all devices, you’ll engage users longer, create more trust in your brand, and drive greater conversions. Responsive design also equals better search rank, site traffic and ultimately, greater revenue. It’s a business upgrade well-worth the investment.

Want to pursue responsive design, but don’t know where to begin? Contact us today! We’d love to meet, audit your site and discuss ways to improve your online performance with responsive web design solutions.

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