Gone are the days when everyone surfing the web was sitting in front of a desktop monitor. The number of internet-enabled smartphones and tablets is now staggering, and they are only going to continue to climb as more and more people discover that the mobile web is actually becoming quite good. And I’m not talking about the Facebook app you use on your iPhone, the Twitter app on your Android phone, or the PGA Tour app on your pitiful Blackberry (guilty). No, I’m talking about old school surfing of the internet — browsing websites — but while using a mobile device. It used to be painful. What’s changed?
Responsive web design is improving the mobile web in a big way.
Responsive web design is basically the practice of adapting a site layout to the viewing environment — it makes site content look pleasant and flow nicely on a broad range of devices and browsers such as those found on the aforementioned smartphones and tablets. This is accomplished by displaying content differently depending on the size of the screen. When you visit a website, your device tells the site what size your screen is. How the site responds (or doesn’t) is another story!
If you’ve ever surfed the internet on a smartphone, the odds are you’ve landed on plenty of sites that were extremely difficult to navigate and/or view. Whether it was tiny text that you had to zoom in on to read or to make a link clickable, or perhaps it was the constant need to scroll up and down or sideways to get to anything worthwhile, it seemed that every click created new work for you. It was a nightmare!
Then along comes a concept so simple, yet brilliant. Responsive web design. It eliminates these problems for most mobile visitors by “responding” with an appropriate site layout. (And with the right CMS and theme framework, it’s actually not that difficult to implement on the back side. But that’s a topic for another post.)
If your website has been around for a while it just may be the nightmare I described above. And if it is, you know it is hurting your business. Mobile users are potential customers too (about 20% of our traffic is mobile, your mileage may vary), so you may want to try this little test… pull out your smartphone and visit your website. If it is difficult to navigate or read for you (and of course you know a lot more about where and how to find information on your site), you might want to give some serious thought to a re-design based upon responsive web design principles. Your mobile visitors deserve better, don’t they?