Interest in responsive web design has soared in the past few years, as mobile device usage has continued to skyrocket and site owners are increasingly concerned about their ability to reach customers who are moving away from the desktop. Mobile-friendly design is the leading feature requested by our clients lately, so let's take a closer look at the reasons behind this surge of interest in mobile design and the technologies we use in making sites that work for all users.
The Rise of Mobile
The use of phones and tablets to browse the web has experienced tremendous growth in the past decade, as iPhone and Android devices have put a fully functional web browser into our pockets. More than 75% of Americans now access the internet on mobile devices, with one in five Millennials only using mobile to get online. And it's not just young people — adults over 55 made up the fastest growing segment of mobile users last year (source: comScore). So it's no wonder our clients demand web sites that work as flawlessly on their phones as on their desktop computers. The mobile market is no longer a niche, and is rapidly becoming the dominant way we use the net.
Enter Responsive Web Design
Responsive design is a method of creating web sites that are usable across the widest range of devices, from mobile phones to huge desktop monitors. Responsive web sites can be easily read, navigated, and used on any device, because their layout adapts to the size of the screen they are viewed on.
You've certainly seen this type of site before (you're even viewing one now!) — many large sites have adopted this layout method as the best way of reaching the widest possible audience. When you view this site on your phone, you're seeing something similar, but still very different, from what you'd see on a desktop computer. Font sizes change to be more readable on a small screen, images resize, and the layout shifts to fit the width of a phone's narrow display. The benefits are many:
- Reach Your Whole Audience - With more than 50% of web traffic flowing to mobile screens, a responsive web site has the potential to reach more than twice as many customers as a desktop-only site.
- Improved Search Engine Rankings - Google and others give a boost to mobile-friendly sites in searches performed on mobile devices. A responsive site has a much better chance of ranking on the first page of search results for mobile users.
- Lower Cost of Development - We adapt a single design to fit the screen it's viewed on, rather than creating a separate mobile site as was common in the past. While a responsive site is more advanced than a simple desktop site, it's still much more cost-effective than building two separate sites.
- Lower Cost of Maintenance - As with development, using a single site for all devices means you only have one site to update and maintain, reducing the time you spend updating your site.
- Future Proof - We build sites that work on virtually any screen size, so we don't need to create new layouts every time another new device hits the market. It doesn't matter how big the next iPad is — chances are your responsive site will still look great on it.
- Easier Tracking and Analytics - Without the need for a separate mobile site, all of your web site traffic stays on your main site, which makes it much easier to track page views and conversions over time (and you can still see the number of mobile vs. desktop users in your reports).
The Best Way Forward
We believe responsive web designs give our clients the best tools to compete in an increasingly diverse marketplace. Once the domain of big media companies with large in-house development teams (or giant budgets), responsive sites have become increasingly accessible to all web site owners, and we believe they are the best way for our clients to reach their customers, whether they're at their desk or on their couch.