Mashable, the leading source for news in our connected generation, reports on the importance of digital innovation. According to them, 2013 was the Year of Responsive Web Design.(RWD)1
“What is it?” and “Why should I care?” you ask.
Ethan Marcotte describes it quite well in his 2011 book aptly titled Responsive Web Design.
In a nutshell, RWD is basically this – Regardless of what device you are using right now to read this blog, the content is displayed appropriately to ensure a satisfying user experience. If you are currently on a desktop with a large screen, you see lines of text roughly a dozen words across per line on the left hand side of the screen with a sidebar on the right.
If you are reading this from a smartphone in the landscape position, the number of words per line is slightly reduced and there is no sidebar. In the portrait position, it’s only about half a dozen words per line and still no sidebar.
Otherwise, if this blog did not employ RWD, a smartphone would display the blog exactly as it looks on a large desktop screen, but shrunk to a point necessary to make all of it (the logo, header, sidebar, footer, and everything else in between) fit on a much smaller screen.
And that’s not good because now the blogger is seriously running the chance of frustrating the user because the font size is too small to read. This forces the reader to use their fingers to zoom in, or even worse, convince them that the blog just isn’t worth the effort of squinting and they simply leave the site.
RWD extends to images as well. As with text, the images become flexible. The content is correctly sized for smaller screens. Another method used to make room is to remove any unnecessary or distracting elements. In effect, the display of content becomes minimalized.
And the portable devices of today, especially smartphones, now demand serious attention.
As smartphones and tablets become ever more powerful and cheaper, more people now delay their desktop replacements and invest in mobile devices.2 Starting this year, the forecast for the global sales growth for smartphones will, on average, increase by over 8% per year for the next 5 years.3 And the number of smartphones sold per year have already surpassed that of desktops a few years ago.
A responsive website does not need other versions of itself to cater for different screen sizes. It works seamlessly across all other devices. This is the most obvious benefit but it doesn’t stop there at a good user experience – there are also clear marketing advantages.
For one, if any business owner is interested in how their website is ranked in search engines, then they should be aware of a recent change in Google’s Search Engine Optimization (SEO) algorithm.
Google announced algorithm updates that will have a “significant impact” on mobile search results worldwide for mobile searchers. The update improves rankings for sites that provide a mobile-friendly experience to searchers on mobile devices, and, by association, demotes sites that do not. 4
This change went into effect on April 21, 2015.
Further, Return on Investment (ROI) comes into play too. According to the CEO of the full-service digital agency Trighton Interactive,…
…companies are accepting the fact that the best ROI comes from fully integrated marketing programs. It’s hard to fully integrate when your website is a convoluted mess of versions for different devices…Instead of having to develop and manage content for multiple websites, businesses with responsive sites can take a unified approach to content management because they have only the one responsive site to manage. 5
Clearly, RWD has become an important aspect of websites from the standpoint of both a better positive user experience and more effective marketing. The time to embrace it is now.
1 Pete Cashmore, Dec 11 2012, Why 2013 Is the Year of Responsive Web Design
2 Brittany Hillen, Oct 10 2012, PC Sales to Decline in 2012 for the First Time in 11 Years
4 Jill Kosher, March 15 2015, SEO: Google to Make ‘Mobile-friendly’ a Ranking Signal
5 Susan Gunelius, March 26 2013, Why You Need to Prioritize Responsive Design Right Now