Why all of your Website Designs should be Responsive

Before I start I ranting on about how all website designers and businesses should be opting to use responsive designs on all their websites rather than a fixed size design, I’ll start the article off by telling you all a little bit about the history of mobiles phones and why people are increasingly starting to use their phone for more and more tasks, and in addition what to expect in the upcoming years.

responsive design

A quick look at the history of mobile phones

Most people will know that in the past decade the sales of mobile phones have absolutely sky rocketed, though not many people will know the exact reasons why.

I won’t go into every little detail why mobile phones usage since introduced has constantly increased year by year since there are just so many factors involved. A nice simple answer to this question would be that we the people want this technology in our lives because we are social-able human beings, well least most of us. Many people will go as far as saying they wouldn’t be able to live without their phone since they use their handset pretty much all the time. Studies have shown that many of us on this planet can’t even go an hour without looking at their phone to check emails, text and so on.

 

BT Telephone Box

The lack of BT telephone boxes

I can remember walking down the high street in my local town and being able to use BT telephone boxes every 200-1000 meters, nowadays it’s rare to find these little booths purely because as of quarter one in 2012 reports have shown that 92% of the adult UK population have a mobile phone and 15% of those don’t even have a landline in their home, obviously opting to use their mobile phones for local, national and international calls.

Mobile phones just 1 decade ago

decade of mobile phones

In the year 2003 (10 Years Ago) we had phones such as the Nokia 3100, this practically phone had high volume sales and a huge percentage of these unit users were in the UK. The Nokia bragged how the model 3100 was equipped with a passive screen capable of displaying 4096 colours/12bit at the small resolution of 128x128 pixels.

Other Selling Features Were:

  • GPRS internet via WAP and XHTML
  • Polyphonic midi ringtones
  • Handset was small and lightweight
  • Interchangeable Covers

If any of us was to compare this model to a phone of similar size we would think more than 10 years had passed, take the Apple iPhone 5 for example it sports a whopping 1136x640 Pixel screen capable of displaying millions of colours never mind being about 1,000 times faster in raw CPU power.

Mobile browsing speeds

mobile browsing speeds

Early GRPS internet speed was slightly slower than the speed of dialup and with the limited amount of CPU power provided in phones browsing the internet was very troublesome to say the least, web pages took forever to display and the pages offered little or non-valuable information at all – it was almost like it was a gimmick. Back then not many companies offered a WAP based website, and XHTML sites still had to be coded in such a way that it was viewable on phones – furthermore at the time in the UK you had to pay per the minute just as a normal mobile call so it was very expensive.

Lots of different technologies are merging

In today’s mobile market we are seeing all types of merging technologies from phones being able to play back video and mp3s to even streaming online football matches and which will only increase with as the speed of the processors improve never mind the fact that G4 offers actual broadband speeds on the GO. It’s a safe assumption to say that Mobile Phones are no longer Mobile Phones; they are mini computers with the original concept of being able to make calls and receive texts.

Nowadays people want to be able to use their phone for all types of things and one of the most demanding feature of the phone that people want is being able to surf any website just as they was on their Tablet, Desktop, or Laptop computer.

Problem with surfing the internet with today’s phones

As each day goes past more and more people are using their phones on the internet to catch up on the latest news and gossip, most of us find that some sites simply are unforgiving to use on our phones. What people are find they are having to do on most websites is that they need to zoom in to read the text or zooming just to simply click next page – it’s frustrating, and like myself many people will use sites that cater for mobile phone users.

A lot’s changed in the past 5 years

In the past 5 Years we have seen a lot of mobile friendly sites created that serve content on multiple URLS, generally such sites will have redirect JavaScript’s that detect your device then forward you to the mobile friendly version of the site, i.e. something like mobile.domainname.com or m.domainname.com.

But for many website designers, web masters and businesses this solves one problem but also creates additional problems. It is a lot of working maintaining multiple sites as well as the problem of the duplicate content site not ranking as well because Google believes that the site is duplicate content, obviously there are work-around for this but they cause us site owners headaches and Google will not reward your site as mobile friendly if your serving the same content on another URL – since all your backlinks will be going to one or the other.

Another problem is that the actual people using mobile versions of the site notice unfavourable things such as perhaps the main content is not being updated as regularly as the main site or simply the pictures are being turns off etc., Basically people find that most sites that use redirects to another site find one or more problems, most noticeable is the content is far thinner.

People wanting the same website experience

What the mobile manufacturers are learning is that people want the exact same experience when browsing the net as they would on their desktop computer or laptop. While the manufacturers such as Samsung, Nokia and Apple are doing their part by increasing the CPU, Ram and so forth on each new generation release, it still doesn’t solve the problem that people want the same experience but still want the portability and because of this the size of the screen is one of the biggest issues.

Thankfully in the last few years we have had new technologies and coding practices such as responsive design, that makes browsing the internet on phones a lot easier, while it’s not an exact like for like copy as you would expect but it is as close as it can get without increasing the size of the screen on these devices.

Responsive Frameworks

responsive frameworks

To make things even easier we have had the likes of many talented web designers get together and make free to use frameworks of which makes making and converting website designs into responsive designs so much easier. To make use of these frameworks they are pretty trivial all you have to do is add the CSS and JavaScripts to the header of your site as well as changing the template files to make use of the fluid grid system they use. It’s actually easier than it sounds – especially if your using Wordpress since you can download these frameworks pre-embed for Wordpress.

Lazy Webmasters and Designers

Sadly we still have the problem of many webmasters, businesses and website designers still not opting to use this technology and being frank – it’s silly not too never mind damaging. Just like social media, mobile internet usage is not going anyway anytime soon, with the Likes of G4 arising from the mist with comparable speeds to home broadband and as this technology becomes more widely available it is predicted that mobile surfing is going to more than double. I believe to run a good business you got to keep a head of the herd – webmasters, designers and even businesses that fail to do so run the risk of being outsmarted by their online competition.

Google is evolving

google is evolving

So many site owners believe that once they have their rankings or if they continue to pay Google in advertising then that’s all they need, sadly this isn’t the case and to secure your online business or website to continue moving forward then you should keep up to date in the terms of what Google is changing on going.

It’s important to know exactly what Google want from their search engine other than making money of course since that’s obvious, basically Google want to offer the best search results and this means providing results that offer the best experience. A website that is not mobile friendly being served on a mobile phone is not a good experience for the end user which brings me to the SEO point of how responsive website design can help you gain more visitors, better conversions and so on.

Google’s local and mobile ranking result

local rankings

As I’ve mentioned that Google wants to deliver the best possible search results to everyone that uses its engine to search the internet, recent years we have had Google introduce local search rankings which is absolutely fantastic for small businesses, though not many small businesses know about this and even SEO companies are failing to inform their customers about it, you may ask well what does this got to do with responsive website design? Well it’s a ranking factor and having a responsive website design can really make the difference with your local search results, you could being ranking 10th for a term on a desktop but 1st on a mobile phone which I will try and explain the best possible way and without the jargon.

Beat your local competitors using Responsive Design

You may have heard about online citations that help your local search rankings if you haven’t I strongly recommend that you do as your rankings can shoot up in no time at all.

To give you an example how responsive design can help you beat your local online competitors I’ll replay a scenario, it’s important to note that Google does have many factors but if your site is trusted and carries a lot of authority I see no reason why it would not work, in fact I know it works since I’ve designed responsive websites and done local SEO for many companies in Bournemouth.

The scenario

responive scenario

Let’s say for example your business is a website design company and you want to rank for the term web design Bournemouth, generally you’d assume that you would need to create lots and lots of backlink anchors with the same search term, nowadays this isn’t the case – while a few of these anchors will help most importantly is that you’re an authority in your Niche i.e. Website Design and that you have good citations in the area that you are targeting.

Google knows where you live

If you was to live in Bournemouth and assuming that Google has a good idea from your IP address where you live then if you were to type in the phrase website design (without adding on Bournemouth) into Google search then it should pull up results from your local area, this is because Google favours local businesses. Basically by knowing that Google has the ability to filter results based on where you live they have many other filters and one of those filters is if your website is mobile friendly or not.

Let’s play out another scenario and say that you’re in Bournemouth in Dorset and you’re on your phone and you search for the term “website design”, the results on the mobile phone may vary differently than you would expect from those found on the Desktop or Laptop – Generally different than devices that are capable of display pages at higher resolutions. Results will vary depending on your site but generally it should favour local rankings and if your site is responsive then it should favour your site over other sites that are not mobile friendly, also it improves in conversions when people visit your site.

Improving your conversions with responsive design

While I’ve explained the advantages of SEO of a responsive design it’s also important to know that responsive designs also improve your conversions. It is proven again and again that websites that look better, provide the right information and are easier to use websites convert visitors into regular visitors or purchasers, because responsive design offers all of these it’s only sensible and without studies to conclude that responsive design without a doubt will improve your conversions.

How Responsive Design Works

So you’ve learned how responsive can help your rankings and how it can help improve your conversions but now you want learn a little bit of how responsive design works, well there’s no short answer to this and I don’t want to make this article into a jargon fest article so I’ll only cover the basics.

Responsive design works by adjusting (I call it shuffling) the layout of the page to fit the width or height of the device, normally you will find that the font size of a responsive website will remain the on all devices, but this isn’t always the case – if the font size is simply to big designers will adjust it to slightly lower to ensure that it fits nicely on various devices. This is what makes responsive design so wonderful is that most things will work out of the box and everything you dislike you can manually change by changing the media queries in the CSS. Basiclly media queries is what drives different styling for various devices for example say you have a header and its 24px in font-size for desktop users then you could use a smaller font-size by simply using a media query such as

@media only screen and (max-width:768px){h1 {fonts-size:12px;} }

 

As you can imagine you can display things easily by using the display:none css styling, which is useful for advertising and banners that simply hold little value or extend the page far too long and lesser the experience for your visitors.

Most designers will opt to use a framework as mentioned earlier in this article – generally the most popular of responsive frameworks used tend to be Bootstrap or Zurb Foundation, but there are dozens of other responsive frameworks to choose from. Generally I use Zurb Foundation myself which I absolutely love because the grid system it uses I find the easiest, the best framework isn’t always the one that offers the best flexibility or features – the best framework in my honest opinion is the one that you feel most comfortable with.

Phones are getting bigger

If you are still not convinced that your website should be using a responsive website design then its worth mentioning that multiple hardware vendors have big plans in place to release bigger phones, yes I said bigger phones!

More and more people are becoming lovers of their tablet computers and the sale of bigger screen phones are increasing, mobile phone manufactures’ such as Samsung are developing various models of phones that are a medium between a Tablet and Mobile phone, the masterminds who predict trends on a daily basis predict that Mobile Tablets will become the standard, enabling everyone to watch movies on the go, record better video due to bigger and high quality lens but most importantly internet usage is easier to use on bigger screens because the problem with small screens isn’t the fact the page is small on the screen thanks to responsive designs but the fact that however small our phones get one thing doesn’t change – the size of our figures.

tablet phones

Tablets are fun to use because clicking them is simply so much easier than a phone and well with 7” tablets that proved successful over the original ipad we can expect to see 4”-5” mobile phone tablets in the next few years which will soar in sales.

 

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