Do I need a responsive website?

Google have announced that from 21st April 2015 they are expanding their use of ‘mobile friendliness as a ranking signal’. This comes after a previous update that saw the addition of ‘mobile-friendly’ labels to search listings to sign post websites deemed optimised for presentation on mobile devices. But what does this expansion mean?

Google has not released any specifics. It may mean that they are going to start adjusting rankings for searches conducted on mobile; prioritising sites which are mobile friendly. Or it may be something less dramatic such as more visible sign posting on search results pages. Whatever the intent, it is clear Google is executing strategy specifically related to mobile search and when Google is making changes to search we need to consider them when planning websites.

Mobile Smartphone

First and foremost any organisation about to commence development of a new website that isn’t mobile friendly, should have a strategically guided decision for not doing so. In most sectors the stats speak for themselves, with mobile traffic making up a significant contribution to site visits, and increasingly so. As a business owner, MD or CEO, if your marketing team aren’t selling you on responsive web design you need to ask them why. If they don’t appear to have a coherent reason then there may be some gaps in their understanding of digital marketing. So what is a responsive website?

A responsive website is designed and built such that when loaded it presents content in the most optimised way for the viewing device. In other words, whether you are browsing on a desktop computer, a laptop, a tablet or smartphone, you can be sure of a high quality, optimised, viewing experience. If on a mobile, this means a website will present in a single column, matching the width of the screen, with clearly legible text allowing for clean vertical scrolling. There should be no need for horizontal scrolling, or zooming, to read text and navigation should be optimised, intuitive and accessible.

What are the benefits? For desktop and laptop visitors there is little discernible difference over a traditional website. For users of tablets and mobile devices there is an immediate improvement in the speed and ease with which a website can be used. For site owners, the stats again speak volumes, with mobile optimised websites seeing significantly greater engagement (lower bounce rates / more page views / more time on site). Greater engagement leads to improvements in conversions, social sharing and overall brand reputation and recall.

In the early days of responsive, focus was predominantly on technical and aesthetic considerations, since browser compatibility was too limited for broad adoption, particularly in certain sectors where Microsoft Internet Explorer usage was dominant for site visitors. This is no longer the case, with responsive site designs functioning capably on the majority of web browsers. This has opened up potential for much more expansive consideration of optimising for mobile, and indeed placing mobile at the very heart of the digital marketing strategy, factoring in ecommerce, social media, email marketing and paid advertising. In short, mobile is no longer an add-on consideration and in a growing number of sectors it’s the priority. Make sure your next site build includes serious consideration of mobile, with decisions informed by your analytics data as well as competitor and industry trends.

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