Responsive Web Design: Why It’s Not Optional

By August 23, 2016blog

Responsive web design is to marketing what power steering is to a car. Once upon a time, it was a luxury, an extra that was nice but usually one of the first things cut to tighten up a budget or “add later”. Responsive web design is now something that no one can ignore or put off. In fact, it never should have been ignored! It’s not a luxury. It’s mandatory to your marketing efforts.

responsive web design not an option

Responsive web design is more critical than ever. Over half of all users are on mobile devices now!

Look around you the next time you’re in public. At a coffee shop, waiting for a table at a restaurant, waiting for a movie to start, in between meetings at work. Most people’s faces are glowing with the cool light of their phones and tablets as they tap, type, and swipe, reading and sharing data. From a distance it looks impersonal, yet we are more connected than ever in some ways. The key, as it pertains to marketing, is in making sure that once you’re digital presence is found, people stay there to learn, share, dig a little deeper, make a purchase, or interact in some other way. If a company’s website isn’t easy to read and attractive to navigate from the palm of a hand, business is lost within seconds.

Digital marketing and all of the related tools, strategy, and content are only as good as they appear on little hand-held devices. More than half of all web use is now done on mobile devices. If a website is difficult to read or navigate on a phone, that’s more than half of your potential customers that will likely “bounce” from your site, moving on to one that doesn’t require much more than a swipe of a thumb.

So what are the components of good responsive web design?

Responsive sites have been built to automatically resize for whatever the screen size is of the device being used. A web designer and developer should work together to determine what content should still appear even on the smaller screens, what type of menu is most useful, and to be sure that nothing weird happens making text over photos become hard to read, for example. This is strategic. It should be tested. It cannot be automated or templated with a high rate of success.

An example: Images are critical to marketing. Sometimes a photo that needs to be prominent might look great as a horizontal “hero image” but take up way too much real estate on a hand-held vertical screen. Users shouldn’t have to use multiple swipes of the finger to scroll down past an image to then hit the first text on the site that tells them what the site is about. If there are multiple large photos, the problem can be even worse. This can be remedied with cropping and editing the image specifically for mobile or being strategic about exactly how photos re-stack and resize for each device.

Another consideration is in line with the recent trend of using beautiful, full-screen videos as backgrounds or in place of a hero image. This needs attention because you must consider that many mobile users are not connected to wifi when landing on your site. If a potential customer has to wait for a large video to load or burn extra data over their LTE network before they can even experience your website, chances are that they will just move on. So you have to determine if the value of the video exceeds that risk, or if you can have a mobile user automatically see a still image from the video or an alternate photo instead to the same effect. Research and strategy, people!

With more than half of all internet usage being mobile, these are big questions, and ones that have additional layers to consider: mobile optimization. Don’t stop just at curating your content – slider or single image, hero video or still image, etc. Optimizing is an often neglected step. Pay attention to file sizes, load speeds (Google wants us to pay attention to this for SEO more than ever), UX, steer clear of Flash, don’t use pop-ups, etc.

And we cannot overlook your content strategy. Having 800 carefully planned words on a home page might make Google happy, and it might be informative and boost click-through-rate on desktops if you’re careful about the presentation, but a mobile user is far more likely to be “on the go”. Often, it is best to curate your content for mobile to be sure that you are effectively communicating your brand and message without losing out to the human tendency to just skim and move on when we’re busy.

Keep it simple and strategic.

Part of the reason for all this effort specific to responsive web design is psychology. We all have noticed that we’re becoming a society that wants things in front of us quickly and with minimal effort. Your website should convey your brand, your message, service or product, and a VERY easy way to purchase or contact on both desktop and mobile devices. To neglect one is to neglect nearly half of your target audience.

Keep these things in mind when working with your marketing firm on your design and content strategy. There should be reasons behind everything in web design and development. After all, digital marketing is about two things: staying on top or ahead of trends and the strategy to make that happen.