What is Responsive Website Design?
If you’ve come across this term before, but aren’t sure what it means, keep reading. Having a responsive website is not only important to your customers, but also for your SEO efforts as well.
Simply put, a responsive design means that the website will render differently depending on the type of device being used. The desktop version of a website, with all the fine print of a sitemap at the bottom of the page, is not well suited to a phone or tablet. Have you experienced the annoyance of pulling up a site on your phone only to find yourself zooming in and out, trying to find what you’re looking for? This would be an example of a static website, and it’s one you want to avoid.
A thoughtfully designed responsive site will allow your website to fill the screen of whatever device it’s rendered on with a clear menu and correctly sized images. Responsive design adopts a mobile-first mindset, meaning that the web page is designed for phones and then scaled up to accommodate larger screens like tablets and desktops.
I’ve Also Heard of Adaptive Design. Is it the Same Thing?
Not really. While responsive design takes one layout and scales it up to fit on a larger screen—adjusting the number of columns and the photo layout with each rendering— an adaptive design uses multiple templates. There is a design for mobile, which typically has one column, a different template for a tablet, and a third template for desktop computers. The problem with this is that not every phone has the same size screen, and the template used can’t adjust as it goes. You’ll have the same issue with tablets (think an iPad mini’s screen size compared to the iPad Pro) and with desktop computers. For this reason, adaptive design isn’t recommended and is becoming increasingly less common.
It Sounds Like Responsive Design is Convenient and Nice to Look at, But is it Necessary?
Yes! Without it, customers may think your business is at best unprofessional or out of date, and at worst, you may lose a customer because they don’t have the patience to view the desktop version of your website on their cell phone.
Not only that, but Google recognizes responsive website design as an important part of user experience. So, if your website has a responsive design, it serves as a point in your favor when Google gives users a search engine results page or SERP. If you have a static website, however, don’t expect to rank well, even if you have wonderful and relevant content. Since Google prefers websites that have adopted a mobile-first design, they will favor those websites in the SERPs. Since 2016, Google has used a different algorithm for desktop and mobile searches, so you may have different rankings depending on the device a searcher is using. Most searches come from mobile phones, so the best way to deal with this potential problem is by building your website with a mobile-first responsive design.
Okay. I Need a Responsive Website, But How Can I Tell if my Current Website is Responsive or Static?
You can always ask people to visit your website from different devices and let you know what they find. You want all your users to experience a website that loads quickly, with images that are sized correctly, and that gives them the crucial information they need regardless of the device they are using.
Another way to find out? Let’s start with how you’ve built your website. If you use WordPress, for example, they give clear examples of how your website will look with different themes, and how those themes will be displayed on a desktop, tablet, and phone. Keep in mind that This is a clear indicator that you do have a responsive website design.
Another great resource comes from Google itself. Visit Google’s test page and put your website into the search box. Google will test your website using a bot and tell you whether or not your page is easy to use on a mobile device. If some parts of your website have other errors, you’ll be able to view those as well.
You can also use Google’s Chrome tools to view your website as it would appear to users on a variety of devices, from different models of iPhones, iPads, Samsung phones, and Surface tablets. Viewing each rendering will help you determine if the layout is adjusting the way you want it to.
My Website is Static. What Should I do?
If you don’t have a responsive website or have found errors that you want to correct, please reach out to us. We’ll gladly work with you to keep all the elements of your website that you love in place while updating it to feature a mobile-first design.