What is responsive web design and why is it important?

Importance of Responsive Web Design

While many of us still surf the web on a laptop or desktop, these days the majority of online searches happen on a smartphone. As a result, Google have changed the way they rank websites - now basing results on how well a site performs on a mobile device, instead of on a desktop computer.

To stay on top of these new changes, we recommend optimising your website for mobile by using a responsive web design.

How responsive web design works

Contrary to what some may think, a responsive web design is not just a smaller version of a website. Simply shrinking a website design to fit on a smaller screen doesn’t work – text becomes tiny, buttons are fiddly... and people quickly navigate away.

Simply put, responsive design ensures your website’s content and elements are scaled to match the screen it is being viewed on. It’s different from a mobile friendly site, which is essentially a separate mobile page.

Responsive design makes a website user-friendly and visually pleasing, whether it’s being accessed on a tablet, smartphone or desktop computer.

A good responsive website has the following features:

  1. Vertical scrolling when needed – mobile sites should have a single column of content so users only need to scroll up or down (no need to zoom or move horizontally on the page)
  2. Simple, easy to use navigation - on mobile and tablets, people need to ‘tap’ buttons and links with their fingers, which can be difficult and frustrating if buttons are too close together or too small
  3. Call directly from the website – make the most of the browsing on a phone

Why is it important to have a responsive website?

In recent years, the way people use the Internet has changed dramatically. More than half of all web searches world-wide are now made from mobile devices. In Australia, site visits from desktop computers have dropped significantly; from around 65 percent in May (2015) to 50 percent this year.

As more and more people use their smartphones and tablets to browse the Internet, the expectation for websites to be mobile-friendly has also increased. According to Google, 61 percent of users are unlikely to return to a mobile site they had trouble accessing and 40 percent visit a competitor’s site instead.

An optimised mobile site will rank higher in Google

In May 2019, Google updated their policy announcing that all websites will be ranked based on mobile compatibility (rather than desktop). Effectively, this means websites that are optimised for mobile devices will show up higher in search results than those that are not.

If you are unsure whether your mobile version is optimised for Google, you can try running it through their Mobile-Friendly Test tool – to evaluate performance.

Google also previously confirmed that any site with a responsive design would remain unaffected:

“If you have a responsive site or a dynamic serving site where the primary content and markup is equivalent across mobile and desktop, you shouldn’t have to change anything.”

- Google Webmaster Blog, Nov 2016

The reason for this is that Google wants websites to show the same content across both mobile and desktop. Given a responsive design automatically adjusts the site content to fit the viewers device, it is a great way to ensure Google ranks your page properly.

Looking to upgrade to responsive web design?

If you’re not 100 percent sure that your site is optimised for mobile - it probably isn’t. And it’s likely going to cost you. Now is a great time to have your site checked and see how best you can make these new updates work for you, rather than against you.

At Web Ideas we ensure all of our sites work perfectly on both mobile and desktop. This allows our clients to stay relevant and competitive - no matter what updates Google decides to throw at us.

If you want to measure your website’s mobile performance, or if you’re curious about how best to optimise your site, call us on 03 8873 0000 or Request a Quote.

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