Responsive Web Design: Where Do I Begin?

by Desiree Baughman on January 23, 2013

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Web DesignIn a world where an increasing number of technological devices are able to quickly access the web, it’s even more important for businesses to have a website that can perform well on iPhones, on Androids, on tablets, laptops, PCs, and even gaming devices like the PS Vita and Nintendo 3DS.

In fact, in 2012, Nielsen revealed that smartphones accounted for almost 50% of all mobile phones in America. If you’ve checked out our blogs and free eBooks before, like “Key Components That Are Missing From Your Marketing Strategy”, then you know how strongly we feel about having a website that’s mobile-friendly.  But is responsive web design the answer?

What Is Responsive Web Design?

Responsive web design is often defined as being “device-agnostic”, meaning that these types of websites will work on pretty much any type of device that’s trying to access your site.

So a user that’s on a tablet or an Android smartphone, for example, will enter in your web address into a browser, and through the use of media queries, your “website” is then able to quickly deduce what device the user is using, what resolution it uses, and then fit your website so that it appears on that device’s screen cleanly and nicely.

Why Responsive Web Design Can Work For You

There’s no doubt that responsive web design can work out well for your business. One easily recognizable benefit is that the user experience will certainly be enhanced.  Nothing is more frustrating to mobile users than visiting a website for a business that clearly is not mobile-friendly whatsoever.

By having a website that incorporates responsive web design, you’re giving them what they want, when they want it, and without having to create a separate mobile site.

So you may be asking, “But what’s wrong with a mobile site?”  Nothing, really.  Mobile sites are a great alternative to responsive web design, except you have to consider the fact that “mobile” versions of websites are not, in fact the same website as your standard website.

This can really work against you in terms of SEO, because instead of having one sole source collecting all of those ever so important backlinks that we talk about in our eBook “Small Business Marketing Made Simple”, you have two sites splitting them up.

Then there are the other benefits that come with it, like not having to maintain two websites, not having to use any redirects to constantly keep on top of, and the fact that only one website will be linked to and shared on social media sites.

All too many times users will click on a link that’s been tweeted on their laptop at home only to discover that the small URL link just leads to a tiny and illegible mobile version of the site.

How Responsive Web Design Can Work Against You

There are some basic problems that can come up but may not be a huge deal, like a slight delay in load times or that converting your existing site into responsive web design can be a fairly time consuming, and sometimes expensive process. But our key issue with responsive web design is that you can’t tailor the website to suit the needs of the customer.

We know that mobile users are generally looking for different information than someone who’s sitting at home on their PC.  Mobile users are using their phones to look up the location of businesses, to do comparison shopping, and to make purchases.

When you have a separate mobile site, you’re able to optimize that site to cater to those needs.  By having a “one size fits all” site created with responsive web design, you can’t easily jump in there and adjust the content for your mobile users.

Our Take On Responsive Web Design

For a large number of businesses out there, responsive web design can be the best answer in terms of your ROI.  If you have a website that is 50 pages or less, doesn’t have any advanced functionality, and the user's intent doesn't change from PC to mobile device, then responsive website design will work for you.

However, if your goals for those who are visiting your site on a PC and those who are visiting your site on a mobile device are significantly different, then responsive web design is likely not going to do your business any favors.

Photo Credit: Jeff Cutler's Gadget Report

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