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Responsive Web Design (or RWD) seems to be the buzz word in the web world currently. iPads, iPhones, Galaxys, Blackberries, Kindles and desktop devices all have different screen widths and heights. With all these devices in high use in our modern world, web sites need to respond and adapt to ensure a high level user experience for visitors. That is responsive web design.

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Done right, responsive design is clever, converting and creative. Done wrong, responsive design lacks heart, reasoning and user experience.

This article aims to delve into the reasons when responsive design is right, and when it’s wrong.

When Response Design is Right

Over 20% of your visitors are using mobile devices to access your site

It may not seem like a big number however 20%+ visitors using mobile devices is big. Having a website built in flash will not work on iPads and iPhones right up. So you better change that right away. Having a site built in XHTML/HTML/CSS is good however pinching, zooming, rotating, and missing vital content may not be in the best interest of your business and your visitors.

Highlighted stat shows how many visitors are mobile. Use this to get your percentage.

Highlighted stat shows how many visitors are mobile. Use this to get your percentage.

Check with your Google Analytics or stats package how many mobile devices are accessing your website. 20%+ give me a call. Less than 20% put it on ice. You may also want to check the trends over the past 6 months to see if mobile use is increasing or decreasing. Increasing means you will know when to start planning your responsive design strategy.

Your offering is modern, innovative or future driven

Have an offering that is clever, modern, technologically new, innovative or trend setting? Then you definitely need to show you know what you’re doing and conscious about usability on multiple devices through responsive design.

Visitors will come to expect an adaptive experience online for your offering based on research, strategy and execution.

Take for instance Bunnings Warehouse. Go to www.bunnings.com.au on your desktop, you will see a full offering of product, promos, specials and locations. Visit the same site on your mobile device and you will see a radically different layout and basic offering – primarily store locations and contact details. They have understood the modern needs of the customers and provide the right information based on expected device requirements.

responsive-design-bunnings

They also need to maintain a modern edge given that new competitors have emerged whilst also satisfying the needs of visitors.

responsive-design-bunnings-mobile

It is important for your business to be available on all modern browsers and devices

Only 3 years ago, you only needed to worry about desktop devices (Mac and PC) and browsers (Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari, Chrome). Now, you need to consider the user experience on a huge array of devices and their capabilities.

responsive-design-alone-not-mobile-seo

If your website or web application fails to deliver the right experience on any of the modern browsers, you are missing opportunities, sales, conversions and customers.

You have defined the user requirements for each device size

As with the Bunnings Warehouse example above, they have understood the needs of their visitors based on the device being used. Most visitors on tablets and desktops are on the couch or at work doing research for their next home or garden project. Most visitors on iOS and Android mobile devices are on the road seeking location or contact details.

How do you define the needs for your visitors based on the device they use? A responsive design strategy. The main points to cover are listed below however enlisting the right digital agency will maximise the benefit of your business.

  • What do your visitors need on desktop devices?
  • What do your visitors need on tablet devices?
  • What do your visitors need on mobile devices with an awareness of mobile bandwidth use?

When Response Design is Wrong

Everyone else is doing it

Just because it seems that everyone is talking responsive design doesn’t mean you need it. Yes, it may be strange that I might be convincing you not to take up one of our services however everything is not for everyone. It depends on your visitors, their needs given each device, the offer you supply and whether suited to one device or all.

Check your stats for mobile and tablet use, understand the needs of your visitors and determine whether responding to individual device needs is beneficial to your business and customers.

There is yet to be a defined strategy for responsive design

It is not in your best interest to go to your digital agency or web development company with “Make my website responsive”. If they say “OK”, you’re with they wrong digital provider. If they say “Why?”, you’re in good hands. Defining the expectations and use of your website based on device type is incredibly important to maximise your return on investment.

responsive_web_design

Simply rearranging content on your page to suit the device is (most of the time) not ideal. It needs to be thought out and well executed so visitors get the information they desire in a way that is enjoyable and memorable.

My competitors have it so I need it

So what? Have they done it well? Does it make money? Does it increase sales? Does it reflect their offering well? Does it give visitors what they want when they want it? Could it be done better?

Provide your digital agency or web strategist with your competitor’s sites and why you think it suits them. Even though they’re a competitor, what makes them unique might should not be the same as what makes you unique. Your clients or customers might demand high quality whereas your competitors provide an entry level product or service. Responsive design might not be beneficial or required for your market – seek advice.

Your offering is not suited to the needs of people on the move

Most people on the move need information quickly or the ability to share information easily between email, social networks and messaging. You need to ask yourself:

  1. Would the information my business supplies be useful or acceptable for sharing?
  2. Would those sharing my information be within my target market?
  3. What information will my target market want to access on the move or away from the office?
  4. Does the website provide easy methods for visitors to share or locate my content?
  5. What can I do to speed up the loading of content while providing a user-friendly experience?

If you answer “no” to all the above, you may be wasting your time investing in responsive web design.

In Summary

Understand what your users want when they’re away from the desktop machine

Responding to the needs of visitors to your site based on the device being used needs strategy, identification of user groups and exceptional execution. You need to understand the informational requirements when visitors are using different devices and ensure their priority is delivered suitable within the interface.

Be mindful of your current analytics

If you find that the majority of your website visitors are accessing your website using desktop devices, you need not change anything unless the trend for mobile use is on the rise. Check your analytics and discuss your future strategy with your digital agency.

Develop a responsive design strategy

Still not sure what’s best for your business? Discuss with your digital agency a responsive design strategy to maximise the use of responsive design in your business. Simply changing the layout of your website to suit devices is not the best approach – or the most converting approach. Understanding your visitors and their content requirements per device is the start to a successful return on investment.

Remember… if they simply say “OK”, come and see me.

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