Opinion

Why businesses need responsive web design

5 min read

29 November 2013

You may be familiar with Pinterest.com. It’s a vital site for you to examine - and not for the sanity-wrecking abundance of wedding dress photos. What you should notice is the way the site resizes when you alter the browser window. You can view the images on a laptop, phone, tablet, or 24 inch jumbo-monitor, and they auto-resize perfectly.

Almost 80 per cent of the SMEs that approach me for digital marketing services have websites which are not correctly optimised for mobile browsing, resulting in a poor user experience which is costing them money. This figure may not sound significant, but I assure you it is increasingly so. There is a strong chance that a website not properly optimised for mobile browsing could put an SME reliant on its website out of business within the next 12 months.

To reiterate my warning, a study from Google, titled ‘What users want most from mobile sites today‘, found that 67 per cent of respondents were more likely to buy from a mobile friendly website, whilst 50 per cent of respondents said that even if they liked a business they would use it less often if its website wasn’t mobile friendly.

Previous predictions from Morgan Stanley analysts have suggested that by 2015 more people will be browsing the internet via mobile devices than on a PC or laptop.

This highlights the need for businesses to implement responsive web design (RWD).

RWD is an approach which aims to provide easy reading and navigation with minimum resizing, panning and scrolling across a wide range of devices such as PCs, tablets and mobile phones.

The benefits of RWD are considerable; namely providing visitors with a seamless user experience, achieving better conversion rates, simplified analytics, coding and better search engine performance across both natural and paid search, as described in Google’s help page on “building smartphone optimized websites.” The only downside to RWD is that business owners who have not adopted RWD will need to make additional investment to upgrade their website and reap all of these benefits.

My greatest concern is the widespread lack of awareness amongst SMEs when it comes to the need to implement RWD. In some ways this lack of awareness has been forgiving to SMEs, as competitors won’t yet have stormed ahead and taken their profits. But I for one wouldn’t recommend hanging about another year to await the consequences.

Admittedly, whilst mobile and tablet browsing is accelerating across the board, the effect in some markets is greater than others. For example, if your business sells ladies clothing online, it is likely that the majority of your visitors are using a mobile or tablet device to use your website during a morning commute or evening TV viewing, in which case you have probably made the jump already or are suffering. By comparison, B2B service websites may have a visitor profile skewed towards office hours, which means they would still be primarily aimed at visitors on a laptop or PC. However, regardless of the industry you operate in, mobile and tablet users will most certainly be accounting for a growing share of website visits.

Creating a different version of a website for each mobile device just isn’t realistic, so responsive web design is the most practical way an SME can ensure its website is easy to read and use across a wide range of devices. Google has already stated that a mobile friendly website will rank higher in a mobile search, and fully endorses responsive web design as a best practice solution.

Google has found that almost half of web users feel frustrated when they visit a site that’s not mobile-friendly and that the same number of users feel like a company doesn’t care about their business if a site doesn’t function well on their smartphone.

There is a good chance that if an SME which relies on online trade for income hasn’t migrated to RWD or a similar alternative within the next year, it will either be out of business or suffering substantial losses to competitors who have. It is that simple.

For any SME owners reading this, I hope my message is clear. The number of SMEs approaching us for RWD will increase dramatically over the next year. Make sure you don’t get caught short on mobile browsing compatibility, it could be your last mistake as a business owner.

Neil Baker is the Marketing Manager at digital marketing agency, AddPeople.

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