Have you ever viewed your own website on a mobile device or tablet? Do it. It’s important. Why?
It will come as no surprise to you that having a responsive website 24/7 for your customers is critical to the success of your online marketing efforts. Beyond a functional and responsive site, having informational, helpful content for your audience is also pivotal to the success of your business. This means delivering your content to your audience in the context they are viewing it. Whether it’s a desktop, laptop, tablet or mobile phone, your audience needs to be able to easily navigate and view your content 24/7, 365 days a year.
Let’s get down to brass tacks, with the ever increasing power, convenience, and popularity of smart phones and tablets, mobile internet usage is on the rise and in fact exceeds PC internet usage in the USA over the past year, about 60% of internet access is mostly mobile. We live in a fast paced world where we demand information anywhere we are. This is so important in fact that, starting April 21st 2015, Google will be placing a higher importance on mobile-friendly websites. For a more refined look at what this means to your current strategy check out this breakdown by Barry Schwartz on Search Engine Land.
Google has already begun providing alerts to webmasters gently hinting to make appropriate changes to their current sites if they don’t meet the best practices, sending a message through Google Webmaster Tools
“Google systems have tested x pages from your site and found that xx% of them have critical mobile usability errors. The errors on these x pages severely affect how mobile users are able to experience your website. These pages will not be seen as mobile-friendly by Google Search, and will therefore be displayed and ranked appropriately for smartphone users.”
Positioning a beautifully designed website, with your best inbound marketing tactics, optimized for only desktop computers is just not an option anymore. We need to focus on reaching the largest group of our target audience as possible. In order to accomplish this, we will take a brief look at three available options to make your website more accessible regardless of the viewing device and a few advantages and disadvantages for each.
Separate Mobile Site:
Separate mobile sites utilize a separate URL configuration usually served via a subdomain, like, http://m.yourdomain.com/, by having the system automatically detecting the type of device being used to view the site and redirecting away from http://www.yourdomain.com/ to the mobile equivalent.
- Creating a unique, mobile only website will allow you to add features that are specific and optimized for the mobile experience
- Utilizing a separate, mobile, URL you will be able to add this option to your existing site
- SEO efforts will be able to focus on the keywords the audience will use on mobile
- Maintaining two separate sites means for every one page of your site you will have to make changes to two pages in order to keep the sites up-to-date with each other
- With the wide range of mobile devices available your mobile site may not be universally compatible
- Marketing and SEO efforts will need to be two fold focusing on both a mobile audience as well as a PC based audience
By pulling different versions of HTML and CSS dependant on the user’s device, dynamic serving allows you to utilize the same URL for any version of the site.
- Page load speed is slightly faster when utilizing a dynamic serving website
- Users will only have to remember one URL regardless of the device being used
- Increase in maintenance will be necessary as you maintain two sets of HTML/CSS
- Similar to mobile specific URLs dynamic serving sites will require increased marketing and SEO efforts
Responsive Web Design:
As Google’s recommended design option, responsive web design is the industry’s best practice as you will be serving one unified site that actively adapts to any screen size using media queries. Media Queries, first published in 2001 and recommended as a standard in 2012, are a CSS3 (Cascading Style Sheet Level 3) module that take into account many specifications of the viewing device including, width/height of browser window or device, orientation of the device, resolution, etc.
- Managing one website will make it drastically easier to implement changes to the site that will carry over regardless of viewing device
- Seamless navigation from device to device
- Marketing and SEO efforts will be unified on the site allowing for a more fluid transition between devices
- Responsive Web Design will slightly increase the start-up development of your site.
- Sourcing images will be slightly more difficult as you will need to ensure they scale correctly from device to device.
- If you have an existing website you will have to re-develop to include responsive web design
Whether you are looking to upgrade your existing site or are developing a new website, all three options are viable strategies for ensuring your will not only provide outstanding user experience but also with Google’s best practices. Choosing a responsive web design will undoubtedly save you valuable time, money and resources in the long term allowing you to focus on the many other important aspects of your business. If you are unsure about how your site will appear, we recommend using a tool like Google’s “Fetch as Google” to test.
If you are interested in learning more about responsive web design best practices check out these resources:
- Build for Four Corners, No Matter the Size by Zurb University
- 7 Best Practices of Responsive Web Design by Stephan Jukic
- Responsive Web Design: 50 Examples and Best Practices by Adrian at designmodo