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Responsive web design: what is responsive design and why use it? (Part 1)

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Responsive web design: what is responsive design and why use it? (Part 1)

2017 / 09/06
Although responsive web design has been around for years, many companies still don’t recognise its benefits, and do not pay enough attention to a website’s optimisation for smartphones (and other devices) - but they should.

Does this sound familiar? You’re on your way to work in the morning. Around yourself you see some bored faces on their way, too. They are reading a paper, still trying to wake up or… looking at their phones. Nowadays the number of people who prefer browsing on a mobile device (be it a smartphone or a tablet) is increasing fast. Users also do many of their daily tasks on their phone only: shopping in a webshop, using social media and messaging, reading articles…

This is why it is more important than ever to provide a perfect user experience on every type of device - and of course, it is included that the websites look good and can be used intuitively. More and more companies take the time and energy to make their website responsive - however, there are still a lot of people and companies who see responsive design and UX as the new, mysterious technology of the future. That’s why it is worth it to take a look at responsivity: what it means and what you need to pay attention to if you want to apply the technology on your website.

What does responsive web design mean?

Thanks to responsive web design, you are able to develop websites which can change and adapt according to the size of the screen they are viewed on. Be it a quick glance at your smartphone, browsing on an office laptop or surfing on the web on your high-resolution monitor at home - you have to see the very same website on every device. The difference between the versions of the website lie in formatting and layout. The website “recognises” the size of the screen it is viewed on, and changes itself automatically to provide the best user experience possible. This also means that if you want to look at a website on your phone, you don’t have to wait too long for it to load, or zoom in and out within the desktop version to be able to read the small text.

Besides its looks, the purpose of a website is also important. Every single page must be built around one single purpose (this purpose may be clicking on a different page, make a purchase on a webshop or subscribe to a list). Responsivity makes the user’s (an your) life much simpler, since this is the way of making the user complete the desired task more easily. Such a solution can be for example simplifying the navigation within a page on a touch screen - by this, the user will know their way around the website, and it is more likely that they will follow the ideal route you designed for the users.

More devices, the same experience

Nowadays being able to use a website on devices of all types and all sizes is not enough. Some also forget that more devices may belong to the same one user. Maybe they will find your website on a smartphone first, and then they come back to the desktop version for more. That’s why the UI designer and the operators of the website should make sure that the site also functions perfectly on all kinds of screens. All content that had been looked at on a laptop must also be available from a mobile phone, too - in a user-friendly and understandable way.

When someone has already made it to your website once, and they also used a certain function there (for example searching within the site content), then later, when they come back from a different device, they must still be able to find all information and use all functions. If your website is not able to provide this, that can easily lead to drop-outs - visitors will be likely to look for other sites on the subject, and will decide to use the one which gives them the best user experience on all devices. And that is, of course, a responsive site.

The same website, different looks

A common mistake when developing a website is to create two different websites: one for desktops and one for mobile phones, since they find creating one single responsive website too difficult. What’s the problem with this? First, updating such a website would take twice the time and effort, since the updates must be made on not one but two individual websites (moreover, the content and the information appearing on the site must be consistent with each other on the two versions).

What do you get if your website is responsive?

By using responsive design when planning your website, you will get advantages you haven’t even thought of. We’ll show you some reasons why it is worth it to take the time and energy to make your site responsive.

It is not only liked by users but by search engines as well

Google likes to surprise web and marketing experts by introducing a new algorithm every now and then, which completely turn the search results page upside down according to Google’s and their users’ preferences. It has been in Google’s guidelines that a website must be user-firendly and usable on all platforms. A while ago, the guidelies turned into a rule: after an algorithm update, Google made sure that when a user makes a search from a mobile device, they will find those sites first that also take smartphone users into consideration. Mobile optimised websites even got a “mobile-friendly” badge.

Although this badge has been cancelled by Google, since 2015 (thanks to another algorithm update, of course), those search results which are responsive appear on top of the results page. This also means that those pages which don’t work well on mobile devices are “reprimanded” by appearing in lower positions on the list. With this, the aim of Google is to encourage web developers and designers to use responsive web design - since browsing from smartphones is getting more and more widespread.

Responsive webshops draw more customers

Online shopping and the spread of webshops is on the rise - and that’s a fact you shouldn’t ignore. There are more and more people shopping on the Internet. Moreover, we live in an age when everything is just one click away - all you need to do to place an order, pay for it and then just wait for your parcel is to press a button. According to researchers, 80% of Internet users have already made purchases on their mobile phones. So if you use responsive web design for a webshop, it is not only the user whose life will be easier (since they will be able to browse among the products and make purchases) but you can also increase your income thanks to the mobile purchases.

Most visitors who come from social media use a smartphone

More than 60% of social media visits are made on a mobile phone. So if you have an advertisement, an article or any content on a social media site that directs users to your website, you have this much of a chance that they will look at your website on a phone screen. That’s why it is even more important to use responsive design. Is Facebook or LinkedIn included in your marketing strategy? Then you’d better optimise your site to mobile phones, too, since you can expect big traffic from smartphones.

In the next part of the series, we will show you tips and tricks to make a responsive website perfect, and we will also list the most common mistakes and how you can avoid them.