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Unless you've spent the past few years hiding out in an underground bunker, odds are you’ve heard a thing or two about mobile.
More than 121 million smartphone users and 94 million tablet users are accessing the internet everyday: reading articles, finding local businesses, researching purchases, completing transactions.
You don’t want to give 215 million possible customers a subpar experience when they access your website on their mobile devices, do you?
Good. It’s time to talk responsive design.
Responsive web design (RWD) produces sites that perform well on a viewport (screen) of any size. The site is designed to ‘respond’ to a range of device dimensions that might be used to access the page—including desktops, tablets, and smartphones. It then presents the graphics, content, and navigation in a way that is appropriate for that screen.
A mobile site refers to a secondary site that is designed exclusively for use on smartphone devices. It is often designated by m.site.com, or site.com/m/—the ‘m’ signifies mobile. Some mobile sites are presented as an option: “Would you like to view the full version or the mobile version?” Many mobile sites auto-detect the device and allow the user access to only the mobile version, which is not a great user experience.
A mobile version of a site often offers stripped-down functionality such as minimal navigational options. They are intended to be easier to use, in the hopes that visitors will find what they seek and complete the desired conversion. But this is not always the result.
There are some great mobile sites out there—we’re not saying there aren't. But nine times out of ten, we recommend a responsive site. Here’s why.
Usability / User Experience
When you’re navigating a site with a mouse on a large screen at your desktop, you've got all the room in the world to click and find what you want. When you’re on a smartphone, you've got to scroll around and specifically touch a small spot on the screen or fiddle about with a tiny trackball.
Responsive sites pay careful attention to how the user will access the navigation, so it’s easy to find and easy to use.
Readability is also a focus. With less screen real estate, it’s important to keep the typography clean and legible.
And let’s not forget load time. Few things destroy a user experience like waiting for a page to load, especially over a lousy 3G connection. RWD puts extra emphasis on techniques that reduce as much page weight as possible.
When done correctly, responsive sites provide good user experience. Intuitive navigation, the ability to easily read valuable content on any screen, and faster site load times are all beneficial. This can also contribute to increases in SEO visibility.
A site that looks graphically gorgeous on a wide-screen monitor might look awful and unwelcoming on a smartphone. With a responsive design, careful consideration is given to laying out the site, and our team starts from mobile and works its way up to the larger viewports.
Well-designed responsive sites are a panacea. They look great and perform properly on all platforms, making responsive a growable solution.
With RWD, you only have one version of each page to maintain: that means you’re significantly reducing the amount of time spent on managing and updating content. In some separate mobile sites, you have the same content in two places, which means twice as much work and the possibility of twice as many mistakes.
Invest in a Long-Term Solution
The investment needed to create a brand-new, entirely rebuilt responsive site can be greater than the price for a mobile site appended to an existing desktop site. A responsive design is more scalable and will offer far greater savings in the long run—no matter what the next mobile trend might be. Responsive is a compelling choice.
If you’re looking for a desktop redesign, then the choice is clear: look for a responsive design. It’s the best chance you have of turning some of those 215 million mobile users into your customers.