Technology is forever advancing, and never before have there been so many different devices that allow us to view the internet. The web can be accessed through your mobile phone, tablet, laptop as well as your desktop computer, and we will soon be able to view the web on our watches and even our glasses as well! This means that your website needs to be adapted to all of these different mediums. So the short answer to the title of this blog is yes, if you are serious about running a business, you really do need a responsive website.
What is a responsive website?
A responsive website is one that recognises the device it is being displayed on and adapts its visual representation to match that device.
In other words, if you view a responsive website on a mobile phone rather than through a browser on a laptop, the website will look different from the desktop version as it will have been optimised for use and navigation on mobile-phone-sized screens.
Does not having a responsive website really matter?
Yes, it does. According to a study commissioned by Google, the use of tablets in the UK triples year on year while almost three quarters of mobile users access the net through their devices every day. If your website is not optimised to the dimensions of mobile and tablet screens, visitors to your site using such devices will not enjoy an easy viewing experience. In fact, chances are they will navigate away, losing you potential business as a result.
It is true that mobile and tablet users can stretch or pinch websites on their mobile or tablet touchscreens to zoom in or zoom out on a non-responsive website to make text legible or pictures visible. However, you are putting the onus of effort on to that viewer, and why should they have to fiddle about on their mobile web browser to view your content? All good website design should be built around making the site as accessible and as easy to navigate to relevant content as possible, and a non-responsive website does not meet that criteria.
Indeed, you may already have a beautiful and expensively designed website that looks spectacular on your desktop screen, but if most people are now going to be viewing web content on mobile devices, much of the hard work and expense of developing your gorgeous site will have been wasted if that site is not optimised to the devices on which it is being viewed.
The problem with having a non-responsive website is not just about aesthetics
It is not just a question of aesthetics or of text legibility when discussing non-responsive websites on mobile devices; it is also very much about use and interaction.
First of all, all navigation buttons or menus have to be clearly displayed in a suitable font size (or at least be easily retrievable) when viewing a website on a mobile device, as this will encourage the viewer to explore your site beyond the page they are currently viewing. This is especially true of those visitors who have arrived at your site via a page other than your homepage.
Secondly, most mobile devices these days utilise touchscreen technology. If a site’s navigation buttons are too small or fiddly when viewed on a mobile device, the viewer is going to encounter difficulties and possible frustration when trying to tap on the links with his fingers.
A site that is not optimised for mobile devices often results in people inadvertently selecting the wrong page or clicking on the wrong link. This is because the desktop view of the site displayed on a smaller screen often features buttons and links that are bunched too closely together.
What if people want to view the desktop version of my site rather than the mobile one?
There are some who do prefer viewing the desktop version of a site in a mobile device’s browser rather than the optimised version. This is a non-issue for most website hosts and website designers, though, as virtually all good mobile device web browsers allow visitors to toggle between the desktop version and the mobile version in their settings.
Is it difficult to optimise my site for mobile and tablet devices?
Not really, but it depends on the platform which your website is hosted and the age of your website. WordPress, a very popular website platform, has various template designs (themes) for users to choose from, and most of the recent ones are defaulted to have a responsive, optimised function available.
People using older WordPress themes can also adapt them for mobile devices, according to an article by Christian Ningtyas for Colourlabs & Company.
WordPress is not the only platform that tries to optimise website content to the device on which it is being displayed; systems such as Sitecore put the web content first and the design function second, so your content can be displayed and extrapolated in a variety of online contexts without you having to input the information over and over again.
However, WordPress is by far and away the most cost-effective approach to modern website construction, and its popularity almost guarantees that your content will be adapted and displayed in new technological contexts (i.e. on watchfaces or within the lens of your glasses) as and when these technologies emerge and become widely adopted.
Does WordPress do all the work for me then?
As discussed above, modern and new WordPress themes will already be optimised to be viewed on mobile devices as well as desktops. However, a good web designer will be able to customise your WordPress site to exactly how you want it, to give your site’s visitors the best possible experience while viewing it from a mobile device.
Given the extensive and ever-growing popularity of mobile devices amongst consumers, don’t view the responsive version of your website as an afterthought; for many, it will be the first version of your website that they will see, so good responsive website design is of paramount importance if you want to retain your competitive edge in our modern mobile age.
Full Media Ltd specialise in responsive WordPress websites. If you would like a responsive WordPress website designed from scratch, or if you would like us to convert your existing website into a responsive site, give us a call today on 01260 275064 or email Nick at firstname.lastname@example.org.