The use of mobile devices is now ubiquitous. This was exemplified by Search analyst group WebCertain, in the report, “WebCertain 2014 Global Mobile Market”, who found that Europe has had a 98% increase in mobile traffic in the year 2013-2104. Further evidence from Internet analytics firm, comScore has shown that we are now at a tipping point where mobile will overtake fixed internet access. Figures confirm this showing that in 2013, 73.4% of the global online population accessed the internet via their mobile device, a figure expected to be over 90% by 2017. With so many of us accessing websites from a mobile device, business owners need to make sure that the experience their visitors get when using their website, is as good as the one they get using a desktop.
What does ‘responsive’ mean when we are talking about websites?
A responsive website is one that adjusts automatically to the size of the screen and the device it is being displayed on. Responsive sites keep the same basic layout, images and text type, on whichever sized screen it is being viewed on. It may differ slightly in how you get to menu items, for example, but the basic structure is the same. The CSS of the site, i.e. the underlying style controls, automatically manage how you view the site on different devices / screen sizes. One way to test the responsiveness of a given site is to open it on a normal sized screen and drag the window to resize it – if it’s responsive it’ll resize nicely to fit the new screen size Responsive websites differ from a more dated attempt at handling mobile devices, known as ‘adaptive sites’. Adaptive sites were configured to display a different user experience to the main website, one which was especially designed just for small screen sizes. The issue with using an adaptive design is that we now have a myriad of different screen sizes across many types of devices and management of such websites is onerous.
Why is it important?
Having a responsive site is important for a number of reasons:
1. Consistency: Your site retains the branded look and feel no matter what
device is used to access it.
2. Usability: It means your audience is able to effectively interact with your
website on any device.
3. Brand and reputation: It is good for branding as you are always showing
your website in the best possible way across device types. Users see the
same site on an iPad, as they do on an android phone, or a laptop. You will
have a reputation of being a modern and reactive company.
4. Retention of good search results: See Mobilegeddon below.
Mobile friendly sites are also important If you do any social outreach to your customers. Another comScore report observed that 55% of users access social media on a mobile device. This means that if your website is tweeted and clicked on from the mobile Twitter app, it will open on the same mobile.
Mobilegeddon and responsive design
Google regularly makes updates to its search algorithm. These updates have often been veiled in controversy, for example, the update named ‘Panda’ in 2011 which was released to try and remove poor quality websites, ended up affecting 12% of the search results, to the dismay of many legitimate companies. The latest update to the Google search algorithm has been coined ‘Mobilegeddon’. It was released on April 21st 2015 to accommodate the growing number of Internet searches being carried out on mobile devices. This new addition to how Google search works, has been configured to allow selective enhancement of web ranking, based on a website’s support for mobile devices, i.e. is the website fully accessible from a mobile device or not to the extent that the site functions and appears as normal. The Google search ‘rejig’ only affects those carried out using a mobile device, so if you look at Google using a desktop computer you wouldn’t notice any change in your ranking, you’d only see it using a mobile device based search. But as we mentioned above, people are using mobile devices to access websites more and more often. The upshot of this is that if your website does not fully support mobile viewing, then your Google ranking will be affected. To show the effect of this Google algorithm update, a marketing company, BrightEdge looked at the ranking of mobile 2friendly vs. mobile unfriendly websites. The investigation used over 20,000 different URL’s and the results showed that there was a 21% decrease in ranking of non-friendly websites compared to before the update. Google have created a test site to allow you to check if your current website is mobile friendly: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-fri...
How to become responsive
Good responsive websites start from the outset. You need to design your website to be responsive, not only to known current screen sizes, but to potential future unknown ones too. Designing a responsive website needs to ensure that flexibility is built into that design, this includes automatic adjustment of image sizes and flexible layouts that can accommodate shifting screen size needs. The end result is a highly fluid layout that quickly and seamlessly switches to a new screen size without affecting the usability or branding of the site.
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