It used to be simple enough to get website design right. Everyone used a desktop monitor, and though they varied in size, the proportions were much the same. It wasn’t difficult, either, to scale the image down a little to suit a laptop screen.
That’s all different now. The screens on tablets and mobiles are not only different sizes but very different shapes and orientations, and more radical changes are coming with the rise of wearables, such as smartwatches and smartglass. Each of these displays the image in a different way, and a website that can’t adapt is going to be more difficult to view.
Responsive design is a way of addressing these problems without having to design a separate website for each device — which would be a marketing nightmare, as well as a design one. The idea is to make it easy to read and navigate the site with as little scrolling, resizing and panning as possible.
This is achieved by constructing the page elements and images in relative sizes, such as percentages, rather than in absolute measurements such as pixels. Along with this, different CSS rules are allowed for media queries, based on the device’s characteristics.
This is all very well, but is mobile or wearable traffic really worth the extra effort? Absolutely. By late 2014, some ecommerce companies were reporting that 60% or more of their traffic was coming from mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones, but the increase isn’t just in ecommerce. If you drill down into the Google Analytics for your site, it’s possible to separate the traffic from different sources and compare it year on year. Comparing 2013 and 2014, many sites show percentage rises in the hundreds.
What this means is that a non-responsive site will offer less-convenient browsing for those vast numbers of potential customers. As we know, in this age of sophisticated search your competitors are only a click away, and a customer who has difficulty navigating your site is highly likely to make that click.
In fact, they might not even get as far as your site. Google now labels sites as “mobile friendly” in searches originating from mobile devices, and a non-responsive site is unlikely to receive that label. If you were searching on your smartphone, would you click on the “mobile friendly” site or the one without the assurance?
The next wave of devices is already here, though not common yet. Smartwatches, such as Google Gear S, sold well over the Christmas period. Smartglasses, such as Google Glass, are still prohibitively expensive for all but the most dedicated technophiles, but we know how quickly prices for new tech can fall. And you may have heard about Apple’s forthcoming Apple Watch, due for release in April.
Wearables, even more than mobile devices, need a completely different display configuration, and this need is only going to make responsive design more essential in the next few years.
Get in touch with our web designers for more advice on responsive design and options available for your website