Until just a few years ago, almost all Internet traffic came from a desktop or laptop computer. To provide an optimal browsing experience across this limited range of devices, businesses only had to worry about optimising their websites for a handful of resolutions, by far the most common of which was 1024 x 768 pixels. Today, however, it’s a completely different story.
The Internet is more widespread than ever before, and mobile devices now account for the majority of online traffic. Smartphones and tablets have completely revolutionised the Internet to the extent that they let people stay connected no matter where they are. However, the small screens and touch-operated input methods demand a very different design and functionality.
Try navigating an outdated website designed only with desktop computers in mind on the small screen of a smartphone. As you’ll soon find out, it isn’t a particularly pleasant experience. You’ll no doubt have to constantly pan the page just to read from left to right or locate important on-page elements, such as links and sidebar widgets. Like most Web users, you’ll probably give up and look elsewhere.
It’s not always practical to design a completely separate website for smartphones and tablets and, in most cases, it’s not really necessary unless you have very specific requirements. Responsive Web design presents a far simpler and more practical solution that allows all visitors to enjoy your website without having to deliver different content to different devices.
Optimised websites use CSS media queries that allow pages to automatically scale to the size of the screen they’re being displayed on. On-page elements, such as sidebar widgets, images and written content are automatically rearranged as such that they fit perfectly on both the small screen and the large one. The result is that optimised websites require no panning and only scrolling to view more content.
What Are the Advantages of Responsive Web Design?
Today, every website needs to be able to deliver its content for both desktop and mobile users and, if you have to prioritise one, it should be the latter. The fact is that mobile Web traffic is continuing to grow and, while the big screen will always have a large audience, no business can afford to be missing out on mobile Internet traffic. As such, responsive Web design presents several important benefits:
- A better experience for users of smartphones, tablets and other devices, without sacrificing the big-screen experience. The flexible and fluid design means that content and on-page elements scale automatically across all screen resolutions to offer optimal viewing on both large and small screens.
- Cost-effective deployment and management. Instead of having to build and maintain two separate websites, optimised websites reduce the amount of work involved. For example, you would only need to publish a piece of content once, instead of having to update multiple websites.
- Improved search engine visibility in mobile searches. Back in 2015, Google launched a major mobile-friendly update that gives priority to optimised websites in mobile search results. Google recommends using responsive Web design and, given that it has over two thirds of the search engine market share, you should definitely be taking their recommendation seriously.
- Better conversion rate optimisation for e-commerce stores and lead generation pages. If mobile users stumble across a website that hasn’t been optimised for the small screen, the resultant slow and cumbersome browsing experience will likely turn them away quickly.
- No more penalties for duplicate content. If you have multiple separate versions of your website, those with duplicate content will cause problems for the search engines unless you take extra steps to prevent the search engine robots from crawling them.
It’s worth noting that responsive Web design also applies to HTML emails, which are effectively webpages delivered by email. Delivering responsively designed emails is crucial for the success of your email marketing strategy, since most people now check their emails primarily when using their smartphones.
Responsive Web design is not difficult to deploy, particularly since there are now countless responsive themes available for all of the major content management systems and email marketing service providers. Simply by choosing a responsive theme, you should be well on your way towards offering a better browsing experience for mobile users. However, if your website is programmed from scratch in HTML, it will require extensive work to make it responsive. As such, you should be using a mobile-friendly content management system to save time and build an optimised and dynamic website.
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