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Why responsive design?

It’s an undeniable fact, the web is a constantly changing entity. The way in which we design, develop and enhance sites is constantly changing thanks to ever improving technology and an online community that helps one another more than any i’ve come across so far in my professional career.

One of the main changes to the way we use the web, has come off the back of the likes of the iPhone and iPad. The increasing trend is to use mobile and tablet in order to browse our favourite websites, which poses the question, should we optimise our websites for the different platforms? The answer is quite simply, yes.

In the past, you could achieve some form of mobile optimisation by having a separate mobile site that would detect the device being used and would then direct you to that site. This posed two problems:

  • It required a specific list of devices to check for. This was fine when the mobile market was small, but now that it’s so varied, it would be nigh on impossible to compile a check list of every single device on the market.
  • It was a second site to manage. You were having to change content twice and this invariably lead to issues regarding consistent content between mobile and desktop sites.

So this wasn’t an ideal solution to our problem. Ideally we needed a system that allowed us to have one website, that changed based on a constant between every single device, regardless of manufacturer. Thankfully, we were given media queries¬†(well, technically we had them for a long time, but browsers didn’t begin to offer support until 2012)¬†which used screen width to decide which form of the site to present, also allowing us to deliver one version of the site based on a few variables. This was the advent of responsive design.

The next question is then why should we spend extra money making our site ‘responsive’? The best way to justify it, is to look at the figures compiled from the recent IS Scotland e-commerce seminar in Glasgow:

  • Over Christmas 2013 in the UK, the majority of web traffic was on mobile [src]
  • 82% of sales are completed on a tablet device [src]
  • Almost 50% of the USA have a mobile (smartphone or tablet) device in their hand while watching the TV [src]
  • Mobile paypal transactions are increasing at a rate of 170% per year. Represents a significant sector of online sales.
  • On average, only 30% of your target market are viewing your site on a desktop.

These are just some snippets, but they show how important mobile and tablet already are in the market, that it seems like a poor business decision not to optimise your site for these markets. Remember, users will have different requirements when on your mobile site compared to your desktop, so you need to ensure that they’re receiving the correct experience for their device. Yes, your site will work on an iPhone if not responsive, but everybody knows how frustrating it is to try and navigate around those tiny links.

The other consideration for mobile is Google. The world’s favourite search engine have now divided mobile and desktop searches into two separate entities and you need to make sure your site is ready for both. Mobile searches are on a massive increase, so simply optimising your SEO for desktop is no longer enough.

It can be a difficult decision to part with more cash for anything, but if you’re wanting to build an online presence then a responsive site is no longer an extra, it should be considered a necessity. If you choose not to, you’re quite simply missing out.