You’ve started your journey into the ins and outs of the advantages of responsive web design. For a start you’ll want to know what is responsive web design, and you’ll definitely appreciate knowing all the responsive web design advantages and disadvantages. This guide reveals all in plain language, fresh from your trusted and highly experienced B2B web design Oxford agency, a friendly team of experts with extensive experience in responsive website design. Read on to find out what responsive design is, the key principles behind it, the many advantages, and the few disadvantages.
The term ‘responsive web design’ was first used in the book ‘Responsive web design’, by Ethan Marcotte. It was a formative book for the best web designers, and soon became a kind of bible for digital design excellence, more so as time passed. These days responsive design is a vital element of site creation that gives users the best experience across every kind of screen size and device.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re viewing a site or app on your phone, a desktop, laptop, or tablet. You deserve the best possible experience, where everything you do works properly, makes sense in context, and does what you expect it to do. The experience should be pleasurable, simple and effective first time every time, whatever devices and browsers you use.
So first, let’s define it. What is responsive web design or RWD? Responsive web design is an approach to web development that creates dynamic changes to the appearance of a website, depending on the screen size and orientation of the device used to view it. Because responsive web design is fluid, it adapts to the size of the screen no matter what the target device, from phone to smart TV. This modern way of working ensures pages display beautifully on all devices and screens, and in every browser, by automatically adapting the design. The user doesn’t notice, they just enjoy a seamlessly perfect experience.
Now you know what responsive web design is, let’s look at the principles behind it. It’s important to know responsive web design is not a separate technology. It's simply a set of web design principles and practices used throughout the design process. You know how every web design decision should be a step towards an optimal user experience? Responsive design is the way to achieve perfection. Basically it involves creating a set of ingredients, all of which work together; Fluid Layouts, Responsive Units, Flexible Images, and Media Queries.
Flexible layouts and page designs respond to various screen sizes and articulations, either portrait or landscape. Clear, clean designs tap into simplicity, a key principle of good design whatever the medium. When a site is simple it’s easier to find your way around, easy to see what is where, easy to do the things you want. When it’s cluttered and crowded it’s hard for people to see the wood for the trees.
A content first approach means site pages are designed with the content users want to see in mind. It’s so much better than designing something amazing without a clue what kind of content the design will ultimately contain.
Future-proofing matters as well, especially since web technologies tend to change at a rapid pace and trends in website design and development are constantly evolving. When you’re ahead of the game in the first place the designs you create look and feel relevant for longer, and please users more.
There are many benefits to responsive web design, so which are the most important to businesses? As an expert web development Oxford based agency, we’re very familiar with them. Let’s dive in.
Responsive web designs respond to a customer or user’s behaviours, and to their needs. A site adjusts smoothly to different screen sizes, prioritising mobile viewing in the same way Google’s algorithm. This means your reach is optimised because you’re putting yourself in front of customers and users on small devices like mobiles and tablets as well as medium laptop screens, large desktop screens, and even huge smart TV screens. Nobody’s put off, everyone enjoys the experience.
Not too long ago, there was no such thing as a smartphone. Now the proportion of website visits from mobile devices has massively escalated. Today, 62% of website traffic comes from mobile devices and 92% of internet users access the web via mobile phones. When you don’t take trends like this into account, you lose mobile customers.
Responsive web design doesn’t mean you have to make separate sites, developed and coded especially for the different platforms - mobile, desktop, tablet and so on. We develop just one responsive website, which means site maintenance is nice and easy. It’s so much better than having six separate sites to edit every time you want to make a change.
Having one site means your website analytics are also nice and simple to implement as well as analyse.
Since 2015, when smartphone internet access started exceeding desktop access for the first time, Google has been using the mobile version of websites to assess their search visibility rankings. Put simply, if your site isn’t responsive it won’t achieve good search visibility whatever you do. Competing sites with responsive designs will always be prioritised and served up to users first. So there’s a definite SEO benefit in presenting an optimal mobile user experience.
The load or render speed of pages on a user’s device is a key factor affecting their experience. You’ve probably clicked away from a slow-loading site or page yourself, going to a faster one instead. Because responsive web design optimises page speed performance - which is great for the user experience – it’s recognised as a key factor in keeping visitors on a site as well as getting them there in the first place.
When your pages load quickly and smoothly, people stick around for more because you’ve engaged them better. They also tend to visit more pages because they’re enjoying the experience. This means your bounce rates go down, and you’ll probably also notice you get better conversion rates – which impacts your bottom line. Lower bounce rates, along with more time on site, are both important steps toward boosting conversion rates.
Because responsive web design plus social sharing buttons make it easy for users to share content, responsive sites are great for brand building, expanding your exposure and attracting more clients. You also stand a better chance of attracting backlinks to your website, an important string in your SEO bow.
Consumers are increasingly using their mobile phones for all sorts of things, including research. You might be surprised how many people use their mobile to research products before going into a physical store, and how many use their phones while in-store to make comparisons of every kind. Can you imagine looking at reviews while in an electrical goods store, trying to decide which kettle to buy? When you provide an optimal user experience from a responsive website, you enjoy the advantage over sites that don’t.
Having a single responsive site design ensures brand and design consistency across the board online, which improves brand equity, consumer trust, and brand recognition.
The latest HTML5 enabled smartphones and tablets come with responsive web design benefits by making it easier to continue viewing content within HTML5 web applications when there’s no internet connection.
As with anything, responsive web design is not without its disadvantages. Bear in mind that while they’re important, they pale into insignificance compared to the many up-sides.
You might get poor compatibility with legacy web browsers, older versions of Internet Explorer, for example. Users who still have these old browsers won’t be able to enjoy responsive site design. Now and again you might find the loading times can be slower, even though responsive sites may load faster on some devices. This can happen when the images have been scaled down but the file sizes are still enormous. And if the site isn’t optimised for mobile, with a mobile first approach, the content won’t be optimised for a small screen, and might not make much sense.
Luckily in many countries, especially in the Western world, fewer people are using old versions of browsers than ever before, and fewer use old-style mobile phones every month as smartphones take over. It’s your designer’s job to make sure the content is scaled down properly in the first place, so you don’t lose visitors and lose search visibility.
Now you understand the many advantages of responsive web design and the few disadvantages. You can see why responsive sites work best for users, are popular with search engines, and save business owners time, hassle and money as well as helping with SEO. We all deserve an excellent user experience regardless of the devices we use to access the web. How’s your business website doing on that front? Is it fully responsive or partly, or not at all?
Give yourself a competitive advantage, delight your users, and get it sorted out now. That’s what we do for our clients, along with reliable Umbraco hosting you’ll love. Walk this way for the very best in 100% responsive website design.