Responsive Web Design

We are living in a Post-PC world. Building websites is harder than ever because not only do we have to think about multiple platforms and browsers, we now have to think about how it will display on multiple devices from desktop to iPhone to Android to tablet.

Why you’re shooting your business in the foot if you’re not using responsive web design

I’m only on a desktop from 8am – 4pm. I’m on mobile from 7am – midnight.

Does that businesswoman’s statement describe you too? How much time per day do you spend on your smartphone or tablet?

The world is going mobile. For people in developing countries, it may be the only form of internet access they have. In most of the developed world, it’s their means of staying connected and finding out information 24-7 (or at least 17-7; you have to sleep sometime).

What kind of experience are all these mobile users having when they come to your site? Can they find what they’re looking for quickly and easily? Or is it a “shrink, shrink, scroll over, scroll down, scroll over, shrink” experience?

Having a smooth mobile experience is especially important for the following sites:

How do you know how critical mobile design is for your site?

Take a look at your Google Analytics. If you have a decent number of visitors coming from mobile devices but a) the bounce rate is significantly higher than on desktops OR b) they’re mainly new visitors and not returning visitors, that can be a warning sign that mobile visitors would like to frequent your site, but they’re getting turned off by the design. It’s not 100%, because they could be coming back later via desktop, but it is an indicator of how well you’re taking advantage of your mobile potential.

Choose the right type of mobile design for you:

Responsive design

The trend in mobile design is to create responsive sites. Whenever a visitor comes to your site, the site detects the size of his device and shows him all the information on your site in a way that is pleasing to the eye and easy to navigate.

Adaptive design

Another strategy in design is to figure out what a mobile visitor is likely to be looking for, and make that the most easily accessible (and sometimes only) information on your mobile site. For a restaurant, the mobile visitor will likely be looking for the menu and contact details/reservation form. She’s much less likely to be interested in your “About Us” page. So adaptive design might take away the About Us page from the mobile site, and make the menu and reservation form VERY easy to see when you view the site.

You can get an idea of which method might work the best for you by checking your analytics to see what pages are most viewed by mobile visitors. Is there an obvious trend in the most viewed pages? Or are mobile visitors all over the place on your site?

Whichever method you choose, make sure your pages are light, load fast, and don’t have annoying pop-ups or overlays that are hard to close on a mobile device. If a visitor spends a minute trying to X out of your pop-up, they might just hit the back button. Bye-bye.

Mobile is ballooning. Even if you don’t feel the need for a mobile responsive site yet, don’t close your eyes to mobile. Keep your finger on the pulse of your traffic – so you don’t miss the mobile opportunity. And if mobile is where it’s at for your industry, jump on the bandwagon before it leaves you in the dust.

”Responsive web design” is a fashionable term right now. Many are using it without giving much thought to what it means. By definition, it’s more of a philosophy than a buzzword. It’s a fancy way of saying, “User-friendly web design across multiple devices.” (Haven’t trademarked that, but perhaps I should.)

So whether you call it responsive web design or adaptive web design, the “prime directive” (with apologies to Star Trek), is to use open-source web standards like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, to deliver a consistent web (or screen) experience to your end users.

Consider this:

Right now, more than 20% of all U.S. Internet traffic came from a mobile device. Yet, only 25% of small businesses have a mobile website. This represents a huge opportunity for your business to be on the leading edge.

Thinking Outside the Screen

In a recent study by Google, “The New Multi-screen World: Understanding Cross-Platform Consumer Behavior,” research showed that 90% of people move between devices to accomplish a goal, whether that’s on smartphones, PCs, tablets or TV. Google’s study set out to learn not just how much of our media consumption happens on screens, but also how consumers use these multiple devices together, and what that means for the way that businesses connect with consumers. Below is an infographic from Google’s study.

Google found that nine out of ten people use multiple screens sequentially and that smartphones are by far the most common starting point for sequential activity. So completing a task like booking a flight online or managing personal finances doesn’t just happen in one sitting on one device. In fact, 98% of sequential screeners move between devices in the same day to complete a task.

So what does this all mean for businesses? It’s important to understand both the sequential and simultaneous multi-screening habits of your users. Sequential screeners will start interacting with you on one device and then pick up where they left off on another, so making experiences seamless between devices is crucial.