Revolutionise your profit margin with responsive web design

Joe Svetlik

Thursday 12 February 2015

If you have to pinch to zoom when you want to read a website, you’re on the wrong website. Responsive web design can create sites that are optimised for any screen, making for a seamless user experience and translating into big bucks for your company. Here’s how.

What is responsive web design?

It’s a way of building a website so it resizes depending on the size of the screen on which you are viewing it. Whether you use a 27-inch desktop PC, an 11-inch laptop, 7-inch tablet or 4-inch smartphone, the site is optimised to best fit the screen.

The move to mobile

Why is it necessary? Increasingly, people are browsing on mobile devices and tablets and old-fashioned websites aren’t built to deal with these different form factors. The Office for National Statistics says the percentage of people accessing the internet using a mobile more than doubled between 2010 and 2014, from 24 per cent to 58 per cent. It’s becoming more common to shop online using a mobile too. Last year, the Centre for Retail Research estimated that in the UK, online shopping via mobile would grow by 62 per cent to £7.92 billion, and via tablet by 100 per cent to £3.1 billion.

This isn’t a blip or fad; the trend is only going to continue as more people have access to phones and other mobile devices. According to market research company GfK, worldwide smartphone sales are set to grow by 18 per cent this year and eMarketer predicts that by 2017, a staggering 2.5 billion people will own smartphones. If you’re not serving their needs in the easiest way possible, they’ll take their business elsewhere.

The big companies are already paying attention. More people use Facebook through their mobile than their PC, and as such it operates a ‘mobile first’ policy. At the end of 2013, when Google’s chairman Eric Schmidt was asked to make predictions for the coming year, he proclaimed that: “Everyone is going to have a smartphone. The trend has been mobile was winning; it’s now won”.

So many screen sizes

The problem is that there are so many different screen sizes. Android is the world’s most popular operating system, but also the most fragmented. While nearly 82 per cent of its devices are classed as ‘normal’ size, that leaves nearly 20 per cent either bigger or smaller. And there’s still great variation within those categories. The recent rise of ‘phablets’ – smartphones with screens bigger than 5 inches – shows just how varied the mobile landscape has become.

One website to rule them all

If this sounds like a headache for businesses, responsive web design is the aspirin. Where previously a mobile version of a website would suffice, it’s now sadly lacking in the face of so many screen sizes. So let’s take a look at what responsive web design can do to improve your customer engagement.

1) A better experience altogether

Because a responsive design uses cascading style sheets (CSS), the format is standardised no matter which device you use to visit the website. This ensures a consistent look and feel across all devices, reflecting better on your company and helping you communicate your core values. It also shows consideration for the customer, as they won’t have to pinch the screen to zoom in and read tiny type, or to click a minuscule text box. They’ll just swipe and scroll their way through the site.

2) Better search engine ranking

Google recommends responsive web design as the best way to build a website. Responsive sites do better in the search rankings too, as they only need one URL and one set of files, unlike mobile sites which need their own separate ones. This makes responsive sites easier to index, and hence they shoot up the rankings. This in turn makes it easier for potential customers to find your website, driving more traffic and resulting in more business for you.

3) Better offline browsing

Responsive web design makes good use of HTML5, which means it can download the resources – like images, Javascript, etc. – that make up the site and store them locally instead of online. In other words, visitors can access the site’s pages without an internet connection, ensuring your customers can still reach you when they’re stranded in a remote village or in a blackspot on the Tube.

4) Easier to track

Because there’s no separate mobile site, it’s easier to track user behaviour like the number of people visiting your website, how long they stay for and the number of page impressions per visit because all the stats are consolidated in one place. You don’t need to add them from both sites. This is a real time-saver when you’re analysing customer engagement, and a bit of a godsend if arithmetic isn’t your strong point.

Responsive web design is the byword for a modern business website. Embrace it, or you’ll pay the price.