More and more mobile devices flood the market on a daily basis, and our way of using the Internet has significantly changed. Tablets and smartphones have changed our perspective toward user experience and design. The need for mobile-friendly, responsive and beautifully designed websites has also increased.
In the past, web designers did not have to worry about incorporating advanced web-browsing capabilities into websites. Their primary goal (and challenge) was to keep the same feel and look across their websites.
These days, however, there are new factors to consider, such as Click vs. Touch, Pixel Resolution, Screen Size, Adobe Flash support, and optimized markup. After all, website interaction via tablets and smartphones is entirely different than when doing it on a desktop computer.
If the core of your digital marketing strategy is SEO, it is critical that your website is mobile-friendly, otherwise, you will lose out on mobile sales. This year, mobile sales have overtaken desktop sales, and are predicted to be even stronger in 2016. It just makes sense that you leverage responsive designs for your websites.
It is undeniable: in order to obtain more traffic, leads and customers, your website must be hosted on a professional hosting platform with a responsive design that will enable your site to display correctly on mobile devices.
Just What Is
Responsive Website Design?
There are a lot of people who talk about getting a responsive design for their WordPress sites; hence the proliferation of guides and articles about it online. Yes, that’s great, because having more responsive websites means having more websites that provide better user experience when we visit them via our mobile devices.
The problem is; 40% of people who talk about responsive websites actually don’t understand what it is and what it does.
And not a lot of people know how Responsive Website Design started, and that it was actually authored by a young man named Ethan Marcotte. You should get to know him better so open his site on a new tab HERE.
And I strongly urge you to read his “required reading material” HERE as it will give you a better (read: BETTER) understanding of the inner workings of Responsive Web Design. Ethan talks about key ideas and the technical aspects of Responsive Website Design in this article, so if you are technically inclined, please go ahead and soak in the information.
Otherwise, let’s move on, non-techie Jane’s and Joe’s.
Before we get down to the nitty-gritty of things, let’s take a look at how a responsive website looks like when viewed from a desktop, tablet and mobile phone:
As you can see, the website is viewed on different devices; the content is the same, but repositioned or resized to conform with the device and increase usability, ultimately enhancing the visitor’s experience.
One of the most common reasons why people don’t understand the term “Responsive Website Design” is because for a non-techie, the word “responsive” can be confusing. Add to that the fact that when you Google “responsive WordPress website”, you’ll get hundreds of articles that are more geared towards coders or programmers.
You’d rarely get anything that’s written for the non-technical Joe’s and Jane’s like us.
In a nutshell, Responsive Web Design is a layout and coding approach that enables a website to provide an optimal viewing experience to its visitors across a wide variety of devices—from desktop computers to smartphones and tablets.
With RWD, the designer should ensure that the different navigation elements of a website including text, screen layout, images, video/audio players and other user interface aspects automatically adjust themselves when executed in a device.
There are four basic options when it comes to coding and designing WP sites for mobile devices:
1. Old School, Traditional Design
In this option, you won’t really have to give a hoot on what device the site visitor is using, because the website is designed at a standard size so that it conforms to the common desktop resolution, which is at 989 x 548 pixels. No, this is not the best option if your primary consideration is usability.
2. Old School for One Site, and Create a Separate Site for Mobile—in this option, you’d design a desktop version and code a different version for mobile users. The secondary site will function and look totally different than the primary “for desktop” site. You would also need to code more, and you’d need to spend more on both launching and maintenance.
3. Old School Design Plus a Mobile Plugin—you will use option #1, but would need to add a mobile plugin so you can produce a scaled down and mobile-friendly version for your mobile-only visitors. The users may or may not access or experience the same content as received by the desktop user.
Why “may”, you ask? It’s because the output depends on the mobile plugin used. This is your only option if your WordPress theme size is fixed and you choose not to recode or redesign it.
4. Code and Design a Responsive WordPress Theme—in this option, the WP them is coded as responsive right at the onset. The site will adapt automatically to the size of the user’s device, and will also automatically modify the content placement or size according to the maximum width of the device accessing the site. You won’t need a separate plugin or website.
If you are thinking about launching a new blog or redesigning your existing website, this is the best option as it offers the most benefits for your users, aside from being the most cost-effective option.
But Do You Really Need A Responsive WordPress Site?
The question really is: will a responsive WP site (complete with all its pros and cons) enhance your website users’ experience, get more sign-ups, convince them to participate in your activities and ultimately increase conversions?
If your answer is YES, then great! Or… you can choose to go for a mobile app for your website instead.
If you are thinking twice about making your site responsive, ask yourself the following questions:
- Who is your target market/audience?
- What is your target niche?
If you are a local service provider in the domestic landscaping service niche, you probably won’t be needing a mobile app or a responsive WP theme. It is highly likely that your target market will be using their home computer—a desktop or a laptop. You can simply limit your site width to 960 pixels so that your web content displays properly for the niche market.
But if you are running a community website for a children’s baseball league, you’d probably be targeting parents who are most likely always on the go. They would also be “soccer and baseball moms” who are photo-sharing junkies, using their cell phones and hand-held devices to take photos of their kid’s moments and share them to their friends via Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
If this is the case, you would need a responsive site and/or a customized app that will allow the parents to upload, share, and comment on photos instantly.
Another good example of a niche that you need a responsive website for: concert or music festival sites. Your target audiences are people who are looking for musical activities in particular areas. They would most likely browse in your site from their schools, in a café, on an airplane, or while traveling, and they need directions or a map to find the location.
Here, you would definitely need a responsive theme that would work perfectly on Android and iOs devices, plus apps for seat reservation and geo-location.
Keep in mind that responsive design is not an “everybody-is-doing-it-so-why-can’t-I” bandwagon that you can jump onto. You need to assess your business goals, consider your target audience and study your niche.
- Will a responsive website design ensure better user experience?
- Will it make your website features more practical and user-friendly?
- Will it urge your users to come back and visit your website again?
- Will it help convince your users to take action?
Now that we have a better understanding of what Responsive Web Design really us, let us talk more about its advantages and why you should care about it.
The 5 Advantages of Responsive Design, And How To Leverage It For Your Business
There are many benefits and advantages to using a responsive web design for your site.
- Google is Crazy About It
This is the best reason why you should go responsive (yeah, which is why it’s the #1 advantage, right?) So anyway, Google publicly advocates using responsive website design, primarily because it perfectly conforms to their standards of a clean link structure coupled with topnotch content.
Compared to the other 3 web design options we discussed above, responsive web design uses the same HTML and a single URL, so it is easier for Google to crawl into, organize and index. On top of that, only CSS is used to automate how the page will be rendered on a device.
Google loves responsive WordPress themes because the single URL also makes it easier for users to link and share the content on your site. The users won’t have to be redirected just to access the device-optimized version of the site, which in turn reduces the load time of your web page.
Which brings us to…
- User Experience is Enhanced
Responsive web design is highly flexible and fluid, an appealing aspect for many users. Instead of rendering smaller (oh yes, they are tiny) images and even more smaller text just to fit the screen, responsive websites automatically fit the content into the provided frame, so that users have a more seamless experience.
The navigation control is not bad either; users can easily access your website content without having to resize or scroll, no matter what device they are using.
Google reminds: if a user goes into your website via their mobile device and becomes frustrated with it, there’s more than 60% chance that they will go to other websites, (yes, your competitor most probably).
On the other hand, if the user has a positive experience while browsing through your site, there is a 67% chance that the user will take action by making a purchase or doing what you need them to do.
Oh, and did I mention that User Experience is now a “ranking factor” on Google?
- Fast and Cheap
In the past, you would need to have multiple versions of your site to conform to different devices. Of course you’d need to spend more on web design, updating the pages, and maintaining a separate domain for the mobile version of the site. You would also need a separate mobile code base.
Thanks to responsive web design, developers can now create just one website for all devices, resolutions and screen sizes. He will have to develop just one version of the source code, and would use only one Content Management System to update a page. This also means that only one website will have to be managed, so you won’t have to spend more time and money on administration and maintenance.
- SEO is Improved
I will go into further details touching on the benefits of responsive website design on SEO down the road, so let me give you the nutshell first.
If your website is responsive, it becomes optimized for search engines. According to Google Webmaster Trends Analyst Pierre Farr, responsive web design beats mobile templates in terms of SEO because search engines are able to easily crawl into the site, as well as significantly reduce on-page SEO errors.
Remember how Google hates duplicate content? Having multiple versions of your website puts you at risk of being penalized for duplicate content. With a responsive website design, you won’t have to optimize content and build links for different sites. You can just focus on a single responsive site, with just one URL.
Because the link structure is the same across all devices, your visibility and rankings are greatly improved in search engines.
5. Increased Conversion, Increased Sales
Responsive websites have features that are mobile specific such as click to call and GPR route planning. Text contents are also easily readable and look seamless across all devices. Because of these and more, users are engaged, convinced, and enticed to take action. In other words, the site’s conversion rate is dramatically increased.
With a responsive website design, your target audience are able to easily access your website wherever they are, and can make purchases using different devices. They won’t have to look for a website just to buy something from your site. The convenience and ease of use offered by a responsive web site helps in expanding your audience, and the larger the audience you have, the higher your sales will be.
Responsive website design is an edge that you should leverage. As the demand for media rich content accessible on mobile devices increase, you can never go wrong with a model that allows you to save money, establish and grow your customer base.
The Fundamentals of Responsive Website Design
A lot of websites today can be found on the web. But not every one of them can be categorized as responsive. While most people look after the physical design and what looks good on the eye, the responsiveness of a website actually allows web publishers to connect with internet users and readers easily through a wide variety of mobile devices anytime, anywhere.
So what makes up a quality and responsive website design? You might be thinking in line of WordPress Themes right now but that’s not entirely what sums up effective responsive websites. Here, you will know why readability, ease of focus, balance, and web layout defines the effective form and function of a website.
To reach your target audience easily, your website should be easy to read. Maintaining website readability across different mobile platforms without lagging is a great asset to any website. However, maintaining website readability requires that you pay special attention to font size, font weight, as well as line height.
Just imagine that you want to read something on the screen and the font is not big enough for you to read. The most likely scenario is that you will try to zoom that part of the screen that and scroll back and forth to be able to read the rest. However, this can be taxing and time consuming to do.
Besides, the more you zoom an image onto the screen, the more things sometimes become unclear as they become pixelated. You lose the balance and accuracy between the visibility and sharpness of details and in turn, your reading experience suffers.
This is the reason why your website’s font size should be large enough to be readable without the reader squinting, zooming, or rotating their mobile device. As for the font weight, thin characters work well for small screens. However, if you want your audience to enjoy your web texts from a desktop or a tablet, using thicker font weights are more advisable.
The line height, which is the space found between the lines of text, should also be conducive to readability. That is to say that your paragraphs should be well-spaced together — not too far or not too close to one another.
Ease of Focus
A cluttered web design can be a big problem especially for smaller mobile devices. A messy web layout makes ease of focus on content harder to achieve. Your readers are likely to focus on the mess rather than the content however engaging it is. To avoid this, you should be able to design your website with the least clutter as possible to help your readers focus on content.
The idea is that you create a page that looks great at any screen size and type of mobile device. You have to learn how to build a website that is built for every screen ranging from small, medium, and large. You can do this by customizing your web design using rearrangeable page design elements to help control how your website will look on a smartphone, a tablet, or a desktop.
A topic worth considering on its own, balance is probably one of the most important aspects of design often overlooked by old browsers. It’s no good viewing too small images on big screens or viewing too large images on small screens either.
This is where balancing or scaling is most important. You should be conscious and cautious to avoid delivering awkward and oversized headings that looks like you’re shouting at your readers or do with vague images on desktop that makes your eyes hurt because you have to squint to read them.
If you’re using an image or an invite button of some sort with a text, always consider how both will look on small and big screens. Is the same image appropriate in scale when you look at it using a desktop or a handheld mobile device? Being aware of the different scales of screens will allow you to make content that is easier to read and focus on.
Although constancy is a concept that we try to stick to, it’s not really ideal to be too constant when it comes to your design element. The pattern or layout of your website design when viewed on a desktop may be different from the pattern that you will see on a mobile tablet. This is because, quality responsive website design is not about cramming every design element of your website as is as you see it in your desktop. Instead, you work your way around the device and use the same design elements but in a more creative and spontaneous style.
As a web designer, you should know the importance of a layout pattern that your readers will easily recognize. Do not try to swamp one side of your web layout with too much while the other side becomes too bare. Instead, be intuitive by using a little less to focus on more.
How? Say for example, some designers try to hide navigation links since they sometimes occupy a lot of space in the screen. But instead of totally hiding them, why not use icon alerts instead to help readers find navigation links easily?
In that way, not only are you improving the layout of your web design, you’re also giving your readers ease of focus on website content which is the most important and helps them find the navigation links easily whenever they might need them.
In a nutshell, responsive web designing is a bit different from the traditional web designing that some of us may know but the aim is just the same. The concept now is that, you have to know how to develop a website that is responsive to the readers in whatever device they might use for access.
It’s true that not all responsive websites are created equal. The reason why we gave you the fundamentals of a responsive web design is so that you should be able to work on the development process of your design as well as a whole lot work of testing.
This may not be easy to achieve and it’s not, but when done right, a responsive web design would be the best way for you to promote and make your content available to your readers and help them benefit from it.
Responsive Web Design and Its Benefits on SEO
Nowadays, websites are revolutionizing their layouts to adapt to the advancements of technology. Since the Internet has become more accessible with the invention of tablets and smartphones, websites has to make sure that their layouts would look presentable and easy to access in whatever device used to view them. The responsive web design is a powerful tool to help create websites adaptable to mobile users.
A responsive layout is not only beneficial to websites, but also to the SERPs, most especially in SEO.
Google Loves Responsive
As I discussed in the general benefits of responsive web design above, Google is the first thing we look to when we need to search for something, and it’s noteworthy to know if your website has impressed Google or not. We want to be on the side that Google loves. And here’s the news, Google loves the responsive web design as it is a huge advantage to the mobile users and also gives a higher search result spot to mobile-optimized sites.
If you are thinking whether to just create a separate website for mobile users, you should consider the benefits of relying to the responsive site, most especially in SEO. The reason is, responsive sites use only one URL with the same set of pages and files that won’t confuse Google in crawling and in index content. Well, you guessed it right. The separate mobile websites would have a separate URL and HTML.
If you choose to build a separate website for a mobile version, it can work well in different cases because it also has its own advantages, most especially if the website has a lot of contents. In a responsive version, these contents would usually be in a “scrolling version” which you have to scroll down for a long period. That is why a mobile site has to carefully refine the contents of their website for a more handy mobile browsing.
Advantages Of Having A Responsive Website Design
But, having a separate site compatible for a mobile, may not be that beneficial in the perspective of SEO. One challenge is that it takes a lot of work to build a new authority of the site from zero. Also, most of these separate mobile sites are not quite favored by search engines as they do not rank well.
One reason is that these sites are canonicalized to desktop counterparts. Things are different in a responsive website because it will be easier. You will be retaining your backlinks and can focus on SEO in just one site. It works by directing all your links to just one domain. This will result to a boost in your SERPs.
Another advantage in a responsive website is that building social shares in just one URL are much easier. Also, every time people share your site or your link is viewed regardless of whatever device you use, all of the website’s contents will be clear and navigating it will be easier.
Avoid High Bounce Rate Through Responsive Website Design
Getting a high bounce rate means that the search engine is not quite pleased with the relevance of your website to the search of the users. It is not enough that your site appears in the search results, you also need to work on the relevance of your content. Most of the time, Google would think that your high bounce rate means that your website is not relevant to what the users seek. This leads to a drop in your ranking.
If you choose a responsive website design, you don’t have to worry about bounce rates because it presents all the contents of your desktop website to the mobile website. You don’t need to think about compromising all the contents of your website. You do not need to disregard other contents. And what’s good is that your visitors will get all the necessary information they need from your website, and so, they won’t just easily close the site.
Attracts More Satisfied Users
If your website is user-friendly, it will make your website visitors stay longer in your website. This means that your visitors will most likely find your website useful and will eventually pass or share your website to others. With the responsive design website, the users are the main focus. User experience is the main consideration and that is why search engines like Google prefer responsive web design.
You don’t have to think about not showing all the contents of your website as what is displayed in the desktop version because the responsive website design will be displaying the same contents to the mobile version. And, whether users are using a tablet or a smartphone in browsing your website, it will be as easy as browsing using a desktop. The responsive website design will ensure that the contents that your users or visitors will share from your site are designed to adapt to whatever device the recipient is using.
Since nowadays the main device used to browse the internet is a tablet or a smartphone, responsive deign is the best option for developers. It works well with the tablet and mobile traffic. It appeals more to users because it gives a desktop browsing experience that is convenient to all users.
Imagine you are a user with different browsing devices, with responsive website design, what your website will present to your smartphone screen will be the same as what you will see using tablet or desktop. If you rotate your screens, then the website layout will also follow.
The Five Key Design Elements of Responsive Web Design
Since 1993, the world has been rocked excited with the emergence of the Internet and the World Wide Web. Today, we live in the most exciting times where even web developers are going out with the old and taking in with the new. Old and text-heavy websites are now taken down to recreate a friendlier and a more responsive web design.
While it’s true that text heavy versions of website are quick on mobile devices, you might tend to forget that web designers also have to take down important design characteristics. Yes, they can rely on speed but doing so removes the company’s brand which is necessary for advertising. To make matters worse, the screen versions of laptops and desktops nowadays have higher pixel ranges – more than the 1024 pixels that we were used to.
So from the many design elements of a responsive web design, which are the most important for you to consider?
Key Design Element #1: Web Navigation
Usually, web designers opt for top and center navigation for easy access. However, a website’s navigation depends on the location of different design elements as well as the width of the browser. Meaning to say, you should not consider scaling the navigation to big proportions on a large screen device with regards to responsive design.
Too hard to understand? Let us put it this way, your web page may look differently on a desktop and a mobile device but the differences lie only on the way the different design elements are positioned. On a desktop, the navigation links might be placed on top whereas on a mobile device, the same design elements might be placed as navigation icons found on the side.
Key Design Element #2: Web Columns
Another key element of a responsive web design is the use of columns. Instead of just scaling a website by way of what device a reader is using, your website should also be scaled when somebody zooms in or out of your web page. That is to say, your web page should look readable and retain its form and function regardless of the device used and whether people are making their browsers large or small for an easy view.
One of the best examples of a website showing focus of this key design element is the Boston Globe. Regardless of browser size, the Boston Globe site is able to display its columns in a wide variety of browser width thus preserving its integrity as a good website.
Also, a responsive web design is able to scale almost all of its design elements; texts, ads, images, even headlines, in the proper proportion not just when you have first opened it but even when the browser itself is resized.
Key Design Element #3: Call to Action
Call to action design or buttons (just so you won’t be confused with the term) are those highlighted buttons you see on a website when you look at them through your desktop. These call to action buttons are usually displayed more prominently on desktop browsers because that’s where they work and look best.
However, there are some instances wherein those buttons don’t work really well and only tend to display the Alt texts that come by the images. Worse, they can’t be found on the web page at all when you try to access them via phone or other mobile devices. You should avoid this problem by ensuring that all call to action buttons on your pages are working however small the page width may be.
Key Design Element #4: Branding
In terms of business and advertising, branding is an important matter. This is where the importance of a discerning designer eye comes in. You should not just scale and move around your web page elements in grids for flexibility but you should also do it thinking about the brand integrity of the company.
Building a quality and responsive mobile version of your company’s website attest to your own credibility to deliver and deliver good. If you can do it with your website when not all people can do it, then people are sure to trust that you know what you’re doing and you are the right person for it.
Key Design Element #5: Filling and White Space
If you don’t know it yet, then it’s time that you know it here. They way you fill your web page with information, matters with responsive web designing. If you haven’t noticed, most websites tend to lag when they get crammed with too many pictures which are not altogether helpful. But that is not to say that you should stop using pictures altogether.
The idea is that you should make sure that the items shown on the page are appropriate for the information hierarchy that your readers might need. Nothing should feel too crowded or look too misaligned. Looks matter a lot especially right now where a lot of websites compete for audiences not just in terms of the aesthetic but as well as helpful information and mobile responsiveness.
In this business, the competition seems tough and the work to do even tougher. But coming up with a responsive web design allows you to present information to your readers in the best way possible for them regardless of the screen size and the device they are using to view them. Just like designing in print, you should always think of your web site as a clean canvass.
You have to work on different sizes and however small your working space is, you have to be flexible and bring out the best for your readers to appreciate what you are bringing to them to examine. Also, you might want to remember that responsive web designing is just about giving you time to do things right. True, there are a lot of design elements yet that you can work on but knowing how to build on the basic and the most fundamental of these elements will allow you to do the most impact while using less.