Smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices have forever changed the approach to designing, building and developing websites. But more importantly, and the main reason they have had such a big effect on it, is that it’s also changed how we consume information.
Not so long ago if you wanted to look at someones website you needed an internet connection, a desktop computer or a laptop. But now that’s all changed. Everyone has the internet in their pocket and we want (and expect) this information now, regardless of what device we’re using or where we are; whether we’re on a bus, waiting in line somewhere or sitting on the sofa watching TV.
This is where responsive design comes in. Responsive design is the term used to describe and the approach to building and design websites with multiple devices in mind. It ensures that the website and it’s content delivers the most optimal viewing experience regardless of the device being used. And with the number of devices increasing almost on a daily basis it’s becoming an essential part of building a website.
Now there are a few different approaches to this. Firstly, we have the responsive layout. This is the most common and means your website will respond and resize based on the device it’s being viewed on. The other approach is mobile optimisation. This is in essence the same thing, but when a mobile device accesses your website, rather then getting the normal site resized, the server will deliver a mobile optimised version of the site, quite often a different page on a different subdomain (e.g. m.website.com).
Each approach has it’s merits and each one solves the problem. We generally opt for the responsive approach and we include this as standard in our builds as we feel it that important and has many other benefits too. Such as improved SEO (Google has stated on it’s development blog they prefer responsive layouts). It can also cut down on maintenance costs. Think about it, you’re only building and looking after a single website with a responsive layout. Where as with a mobile optimised website, you’re having build and maintain a second mobile version. Now that’s not to say a mobile optimised site shouldn’t be considered as they can be better for more complex and content heavy websites where domain authority might not be an issue but there is no easy answer as to which one is better solution as it will often differ from project to project.
So, is responsive design something you should be looking at? Without a doubt, regardless of which route you adopt it’s a very important consideration and shouldn’t be overlooked. Last year, mobile browsing accounted for 25% of the overall web traffic, and this year it’s on track to overtake desktop browsing all together, so this potentially means over half of the people who visit your unoptimised website might choose to go else where simple because using your site on their device is a pain.
Can you afford to lose that traffic?