how-2015-tech-makes-responsive-design-a-must-haveTen years ago, responsive design was a virtual nonentity. Users accessed your site using a limited number of devices, almost exclusively desktop or laptop computers with a narrow range of browser options, all with similar functionality.

Today, this is no longer the case, and unresponsive sites can be business disasters, sending users fleeing to better designed pages. Key to this change has been the introduction of web accessibility functions for a greater variety of devices. Want Android phone folks as well as desktop-based Safari users to be able to read your site? Read on for the scoop on responsive design.

The Big Questions Behind Responsive Design

Before you jump in to design this new responsive website, you might still be wondering, what does this all even mean? Sure, you want people to be able to read your website, but you probably already thought that was true.

While this may be the case, responsive design takes us beyond this idea of simple access. As Tiffany Raiford points out, websites come in all shapes and sizes, but the website created with responsive design in mind aims “to provide the most comprehensive and optimal viewing experience for people online so that it’s easy to navigate and simple.” What more could you want from your website?

Versatility and Mobile Tech

Mobile technology is the driving force behind the development of responsive design because cell phones, tablets, and everything in between have brought the greatest variation to the experience of browsing the web.  When dealing with these different devices, content needs to be flexible in ways you might not have considered before.

Codeboxr describes the effect of responsive design as making content “super flexible”, or better yet, “fluid”. By coding your site to adjust to varied screen sizes and shapes, users can move their activity across platforms and recommend your site to friends who use a variety of devices, trusting that it will always be accessible.

Going Beyond Mobile

Although mobile technologies are a large part of the reason responsive tech is necessary, it is vital to distinguish between building a mobile site and building a responsive one. Mobile sites are separate constructions, a secondary version of your page meant to be used on mobile devices – and even then, sometimes only on a limited range of them. A responsive site, on the other hand, is a consolidated version of your site, offering the full experience to all users.

Another reason to avoid simply building a mobile site is that running two sites can equal risky business. Keval Padia notes that using a mobile site variant rather than a responsive site opens up significant opportunities for errors, mismatches, and other variations between your pages. You want your users to have a consistent experience when they load your website, not an optimal one on their computer and a subpar one on their mobile device.

Meeting Google’s Demands

Whether Google is your search engine of choice or not, we all know that Google rules the internet, and this is no less true when it comes to responsive design. In fact, Jeremy Mansfield highlights Google’s preference for responsive web design as the top benefit of using this design strategy.

Google consistently ranks responsively designed sites above mobile-specific variants in mobile device searches, meaning that building a mobile-specific site may mean your company never gets seen. Sites using responsive design will consistently bump your mobile pages out of the top matches, putting your at a distinct disadvantage. Sometimes playing by the rules – in this case, Google’s rules – is the only way to succeed.

An Unbeatable Web Presence

The nature of web use today has created a situation in which responsive design is the only way to go. Heavy mobile internet access means that using split desktop and mobile websites will drop your page hits and cost you overall, putting your competitors ahead.

On the other hand, building only a desktop version of your site and trusting that mobile devices will compensate is a recipe for disaster. Responsive design solves both of these problems while emphasizing user experience in the design process. The customer is always right, and the customer demands a website that is responsive – convenient, consistent, and a pleasure to use.

Make this your website.