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Why you want a responsive website

Date Posted: March 28, 2017

Mobile friendly website

“Make it mobile-friendly” has become a standard request from our website clients, since no one can afford to lose half their potential search traffic because their website can’t be easily navigated from a phone or tablet. But a mobile website only gets you partway there. Here’s why the new request should be “make it responsive.”

Why mobile is important

The stats are in: a 2015 report by comScore on multi-platform audiences and engagement showed that mature internet markets like the U.S., Canada and the U.K. are now mobile-first in terms of digital consumer behaviour.

Share of digital media time by platform
Source: comScore MMX Multi-Platform, US, Canada, UK, March 2015

That doesn’t mean desktops have gone the way of the dodo. Far from it. The “Global Digital Future in Focus” report, published in October 2016 by comScore, shows desktop usage is still important for daytime audiences, while tablets and smartphones dominate in the evening.

daily impressions by platforms
Source: comScore custom data, October 2016

It’s also important to note that most users are now multi-platform, so having a website that provides them with a similar experience on all their devices can be a tremendous advantage. People can switch devices and still find what they need.

multi-platform users
Source: comScore MMX Multi-Platform, June 2016

Google recognized the developing mobile-dominance trend and has invested greatly in efforts to educate website owners on the importance of having a website that accommodates users on diverse platforms.

In 2015, Google released an algorithm update, often referred to as the “Mobilegeddon” update, with the intent of giving a boost in search engine ranking to mobile-friendly pages when someone is searching from a mobile device. Mobilegeddon was followed in May 2016 by a similar update designed to reward mobile-friendly websites even more. It was clear to marketers at that point: having a mobile-friendly website would help them rank better and therefore attract more prospects.

A mobile site? Or a responsive site?

There are two ways to make your website mobile-friendly:

  1. Build a mobile version of your website;
  2. Build a new website with responsive web design, which adapts its layout to the screen it’s being viewed on.

The first option may cost less up front than the second. It can also be a viable solution for static websites that don’t require frequent updates. But we’d recommend going with the second option in the modern multi-platform world.

Here’s why.

Mobile website

Content management headache: A mobile website requires a different domain (for example: “m.mydomain.com”). Maintaining two websites increases your cost, risk of security breaches and the work required to manage and update your content.

Responsive web design

Content management efficiency: Responsive web design doesn’t require a second domain. You update your content once and all users see the same content with a different layout that’s adapted to their device.

Not as good for SEO: Mobile websites are not as good for search engines because other web pages now have two different sites to link to—your desktop site and your mobile site. Quality links are good for search engine rankings and links to your mobile site will not count as links to your main website address.

Better for SEO: This option is better for search engines because people can link to a single website and reinforce its domain authority. This is why it’s the method recommended by Google.

Higher maintenance costs: Mobile phones and browsers evolve rapidly and this could require higher maintenance and costs moving forward to keep the site “friendly” to the new devices.

Flexibility: Responsive web design is flexible and better prepared for technology changes. It will adapt your layout to the next iPhone and Android models without any major updates to the code.

Poor user experience: Mobile sites are built specifically for phones. This means the site isn’t likely to display properly for tablet users and even some mobile users with bigger screens.

Better user experience: Because they are designed to adjust their layout, fonts, images and other elements to the user device, responsive websites provide a better overall user experience.

Before making any decision, make sure you discuss responsive sites with your developers. Creating a great user experience is all about understanding who your users are and how (and where) they will be interacting with your content. Are they on smart TVs sitting on their couch? Or are they on the subway on their phones and worried about using too much data? Having these conversations with your developers will ensure that you’re building a responsive site for the people that matter most to you.