Article created for Attract and Convert (web design and lead generation): October 2016
You’ve probably heard the term ‘responsive website’ banded about at some point, maybe you’ve even read a few blog posts and are still none the wiser, but perhaps because your friends are still banging on about it, you’ve decided to tentatively ask the question again:
What is a responsive website?
A responsive website changes its layout to best suit the device it is being viewed on. These changes might include displaying bigger fonts so that text is easier to read on a smaller device, scaling blog posts or articles to fit the screen so a user doesn’t have to scroll too much while reading, and removing distracting or unnecessary items from the page so that the user can focus solely on the content they want. Simply put, a responsive website makes it easier for potential customers to navigate your website, regardless of the device they are using to access it on.
If your website is not responsive then your uses probably aren’t seeing the best your business has to offer them. While your website might look great on a desktop with its multiple columns and crisp images that beautifully illustrate your product, it might not look that way on a smaller screen. A user visiting your website via a mobile phone might see a shrunken page with tiny fonts that are hard to read, small navigation buttons and links that are too close together and difficult to click on. Alternatively, your visitor might only be seeing a small section of a larger page and be forced to endlessly scroll from side to side just to read a line of text.
Below is an example of some of these features in action on an unresponsive website accessed via a mobile phone:
This isn’t just a question of aesthetics. Responsive websites certainly look nice, but they’re more about creating a good experience for the user, no matter which device they’re using to view your website. And these days, that device is more than likely going to be a mobile phone. In 2015 Google announced that for the first time more Internet searches took place on mobile devices than on desktops, since then the figure has only continued to rise. According to one independent report by Hitwise, 72% of searches related to the food and beverage industry were made via a mobile device. This statistic is particularly revealing because it highlights how searches are no longer being ‘saved up’ for desktops. The public are using their phones to search for products and services when the thought enters their head. Smart phones are not only enabling us to be more spontaneous, but they’re fitting in and around our everyday lives. You only have to look up from your own phone to see just how many other people are using theirs. Every train platform and bus queue is crammed with potential customers killing a few minutes before their ride arrives.
It’s no surprise then that these people want a website to be quick and easy to use. If a visitor to your website is not able to easily navigate their way around and quickly find the information they want, then they’ll likely to become frustrated and decide that your website is simply not worth the time or effort and leave. An unresponsive website therefore is losing you money.
This graphic from Search Engine Land perfectly illustrates just how destructive an unresponsive website can be to your business.
Google rewards responsive websites
It’s not just about user experience. If you have an unresponsive website then it probably isn’t ranking highly in Google searches conducted on a mobile. This is because last year, Google rolled out a series of changes that effectively reward websites for being user-friendly or responsive to people searching via mobile phones. Google is obviously keen to harness this new market. To see just how seriously Google is taking the rising numbers of mobile searches you need not look any further than one of their own search engine results pages. Up until the beginning of 2016, Google displayed side ads. These have now been bumped in favour of a fourth AdWords slot. Google search results pages now offer a consistent user experience across devices, making it especially easy for those using smaller screens to navigate. Mobile Google searchers now only have to worry about text running in a single linear fashion down the page.
If one of the most successful companies on the planet is taking mobile searching this seriously, perhaps it’s time you did too.
A higher Google ranking equals more customers
As we have seen, Google rewards businesses that create good mobile user experiences with higher search rankings. A higher ranking will generate greater traffic for your website, and, if you make it easy for people to find what they want by using a responsive website, you’ll convert more of those visitors into customers.
What does a good responsive website look like?
A responsive website puts the user first, making it easy for them to navigate the page. Doing this will also ensure that your website is ranking highly in Google searches conducted on mobile phones. But what does a good responsive website look like? Hubspot has collected some great examples.
Etsy has made it extremely easy to search their website. If a visitor has a specific item in mind when they arrive on the site, then they can easily enter it into the search bar. But if the visitor is still at the browsing stage, they can search the site via categories, which are displayed as nice big buttons that are easy to click on.
Meanwhile, the popular news site The Huffington Post, changes their headlines to better suit people viewing the site on their mobile. They make the text easily scannable for people who are busy doing other things, such as hopping on and off of public transport, or quickly catching up on the news during their lunch break. But they also cater for those with more time on their hands. They include a menu button that takes the visitor to a category list where they can choose articles by subject matter, such politics, or business.
As you can see, these sites make it easy for their visitors to quickly find what they want.
A responsive website not only changes its layout to best suit the device its being viewed on, but it also tries to anticipate what a user wants. If you can create a good responsive website, you’ll not only be pleasing your customers and gently guiding them towards a purchase, but you’ll also be rewarded by Google with a better mobile search ranking, and thereby also boosting your business.