if-you-want-a-positive-response-from-customers-your-website-needs-to-be-responsiveNot long ago, smartphones were still new and the user base not very deep. Businesses, if they made special concessions at all to visitors arriving on smart mobile devices, offered them dedicated apps. In most cases, they did nothing at all. They simply expected users to make do with whatever way their mobile browsers chose to display their website to them.

It didn’t take long for businesses to realize that apps were expensive to build and maintain, however, and that most people weren’t interested in clogging their phones up with them (more than 60% of website visitors reject the idea of a dedicated app). If they were to cater to the needs of mobile visitors, they needed to build websites usable on mobile devices.

What makes a website mobile-usable?

When it comes to designing websites for mobile visitors, there is more than one way to go. In the beginning, many businesses chose to build a “lite” mobile version of their main website, and the idea made a lot of sense. Mobile-specific websites are designed for slow, restricted data connections and small screens, and come with few data-heavy elements. They tend to be faster to load, as a result. But not every business has the resources to maintain two websites, and such designs do not necessarily perform well on some of the newer devices out there — smart televisions and smart watches among others. Businesses needed a better option for their mobile customers.

Responsive web design for liquid content

Content is like water, is a saying often used in the website design community. The meaning is obvious — no matter what kind of device or screen shape one may view a website on, one would want the content to occupy it in an efficient and usable way, and with no loss of information. Responsive design technology equips websites for such behavior. A website built to automatically display correctly on every device type saves tremendously on design and maintenance costs. It is ideal for small businesses with limited resources.

The first responsively designed website was Audi’s, and it came up way back in 2001. Responsive web design didn’t become an actual trend until 2010, however. A couple of years later, in 2013, adoption was so brisk, Mashable termed it the “responsive web design year.”

The year 2014 was a watershed when it came to the way people accessed the Internet. Businesses across the board reported far more time spent on their websites by mobile visitors than computer visitors. It was then that most businesses realized that it was time to ensure a smooth website experience for every kind of visitor.

Responsive web design makes financial sense

Subsites specifically built for mobile visitors do work better than responsively designed sites in certain situations. They are better for highly complex layouts such as those required for shopping websites displaying thousands of products, for example. Mobile websites can also gain points with Google’s ranking system by adopting lightweight design to keep all large and medium-sized images out for speed. For small businesses, however, maintaining two websites means additional cost and hassle. In most cases, the low-maintenance, future-proof nature of responsive design is the more meaningful path to take.

Responsive design helps websites avoid common and costly design mistakes

One of the greatest risks involved in website construction comes from the complexity of the design process. When mistakes are made, both mobile visitors and mobile search engine bots come up against blocked JavaScript and image files, unplayable video content, faulty redirects, mobile-only 404s, links to desktop-site pages, incorrect font sizes and buttons that are unusable and small. Such mistakes are far more probable when a business designs and updates two different sites.

Google recommends responsive design

When one person looks up a product on a mobile subsite, and shares a link with someone who opens it on a desktop computer, often, the recipient will end up seeing the stripped-down mobile version on the desktop. It’s a suboptimal user experience. For this reason, among others, Google, which tends to focus on user experience these days, recommends responsive design.

Responsively designed websites pass Google’s mobile friendly website test. While no business should accept a path simply because someone recommends it, Google does direct most website traffic, and a recommendation by the search major is always worth taking into account.


Amelia Hutchinson is a business consultant who started her career as a web designer. When time allows she contributes to several business blogs around the web, hoping that her insights will help someone out somewhere in the world!