The Responsive Web Series — Part 1: Why it Matters
By Wally Zielinski on Friday, January 3rd, 2014
The importance of a well-made, responsive web site is immeasurable. Not only is web traffic being driven by mobile access more now than ever before, the impact and weight of your brand can be heavily affected by the time and care you take to deliver your customers a positive mobile experience. Think about it: You don’t skimp when it comes to providing your customers with a pleasant experience at your office or place of business—Customers are greeted by a friendly face, are given a comfortable place to rest while they wait, and when they come face to face with you and your team, they see a group of well-respected professionals, ready to offer their best services which your customer knows will help them achieve their goals.
Your web presence is basically your office or business beaming it’s way into your customer’s homes, devices, and lives. You wouldn’t let your customer meet you in a filthy apartment or dingy coffee shop near a bad neighborhood, right? Well, that is essentially what you allow to happen if you don’t offer your client’s a safe and friendly place to see you when they are on the go, accessing your site on their Apple- or Google-powered devices.
But what IS a responsive website, and what makes it different from other types of mobile-friendly websites? Let’s take a step back and examine what makes a site truly responsive, and what your customers expect from it.
The Old Way: “m.”
Perhaps you recall typing a web address into your phone or tablet a few years ago, and seeing it change from “www.google.com” to “m.google.com” as it loaded. It’s a subtle change, maybe something you might never notice if you didn’t grow up with technology. However, it’s an important distinction. When you are directed to an “m.” site, you are essentially accessing something which can be entirely different from the site you are looking for. Content and structure may be similar, but what you get is a completely different website, separate from the regular “www” site.
For the user, it’s not really a big deal. They simply walk through two doors instead of one. However, for you and your web team, it means actively updating, maintaining, and keeping up with two separate websites. This equates to more time spent making changes, and at the end of the day, more money spent. At this point, the site is not truly responsive, it just has a mobile-friendly younger sibling. It’s another mouth to feed, and you’re the one that has to do the feeding. Thankfully, it’s not necessary in today’s responsive world.
The New Way: True Responsivity
We’ve already concluded that maintaining two different websites is a time sink, and not an effective way to deliver your customers a positive web experience with your brand. Instead, what we want is a single site that can metamorphoze and adapt to wherever you are and whatever you are doing. That is the definition of a Responsive website, and it is the important first step you must undertake when first looking at updating or creating your web presence.
Responsive sites work by reading the specifics of whatever device you may be accessing from (screen size and resolution, mostly) and automatically adjusting, re-organizing, and optimizing your content to be read on that kind of device. That usually means reducing things as small as possible without sacrificing layout or content, but getting creative and going the extra step to make it clean and polished will go a long way to increasing your brand’s image and your customer’s loyalty.
Your Customer’s Expectations
Microsoft.com is a great example of what a responsive website should be. On a desktop, it looks like any other site. But cinch your window smaller and smaller and you will see how things begin to change: Sidebars fall away gracefully, keeping the most important content at the top. Dropdown menus and navigation get bigger and more touch-friendly (nothing is worse than clicking the wrong link because the navigation doesn’t adapt from desktop to mobile). Secondary menus get tucked away neatly—but not hidden—to allow for more content without sacrificing functionality.
These things are at the core of a functional responsive layout. When discussing the design of your website—whether you are rebranding, updating, or making your site for the first time—be sure to talk with your web professionals and team about when and how mobile responsivity will come into play. Confer with your team and find out what metrics are the most important to you, so that you can better gauge which items need to be highlighted the most when going down to a mobile screen size.
Web Presence can be the first thing your customer sees—Don’t let them walk in on an untidy office or rude receptionist.