Responsive Websites and Why You Need One

We’ve all been there: stranded at the airport, on the subway platform, or in the work meeting you can’t escape, realizing that the window of opportunity to overnight a birthday gift to your niece is quickly closing. So, you pull out the glorious mini-computer you have stashed in your pocket only to suffer through slow and hard-to-navigate sites with ill-functioning response features, finally giving up and deciding that a gift-free phone call will have to do this year.

In the age of mobile media, it’s hard to believe that some businesses still haven’t realized how necessary responsive sites are to their online—and overall—success. Commercial websites need to be able to function seamlessly, regardless of the device from which the user is accessing the site. The fact is that mobile users make up the largest percentage of website traffic you will receive these days, so you need to make sure you’re catering to a mobile consumer base. At the same time, however, you want to make sure that your site is just as stunning on the “big screen” as it is on a tablet or smartphone.

1.   Why is responsive web design so important?

Frankly, responsive web design is critical to the success of any company. Sure, the majority of consumers do almost everything on the go these days, but it’s also imperative to remember that users viewing your website multiple times and from multiple devices must be able to recognize the site map and feel as though they’re getting a consistent experience with each visit.

There are other huge perks associated with assuring your website is responsive, though: a website that translates well across multiple devices will help you draw in a mobile user demographic, dramatically boost your conversion rates, and increase your favorability with search engines like Google.

Search engines favor responsive websites, not only because they vastly improve the user experience, but also because they unclog the filtering and indexing process by removing the need for two separate sites with individual URLs and HTML. What’s more is that when it comes to the effect responsive sites can have on your business, Google reports that they help drive conversion rates by up to 67%. In fact, ¾ of modern consumers are shopping or searching for products—and ¼ are actually purchasing products—on mobile devices that make it easy and convenient to find what they need.

2. So, how do I increase the responsiveness of my site?

The problem your potential customers face is that mobile sites have a tendency to be inconsistent and slow. Many of the factors that cause these problems can be fixed through performance optimization or by taking preventative measures during original design.

Mobile first approach – A good rule of thumb is to start by thinking small. The idea here is that you should design your basic layout with the smartphone (or 320px) experience in mind. Consider which features and pages are absolutely necessary for someone taking a quick look or attempting an easy purchase. From here, you can easily add content and finagle features at will to suit the ever-growing number of expanding screen sizes available on other devices. When it comes to lazy or restrictive loading, however, make sure you consider context and flow, as brought up in the link to the Sullivan talk above.

Context clues – Make sure you are taking into account the purpose and frequency of a user’s visit to your site. Landing on a giant “About” page may seem nonsensical to a mobile user who’s very familiar with your product and may be looking for other information, such as new additions to the product line. For this reason, it’s extremely helpful to enable software that allows you to analyze user interactions and learn user preferences.

Consistency – Yes, you need to make sure that your user is able to recognize your brand (make sure things like fonts, colors, and other visual design aesthetics remain consistent!) and find the products they’re seeking easily from device to device. You may find, however, that it is necessary to stray from this rule when ensuring that the user experience is navigable—and readable—no matter how tiny the screen. Can you sacrifice or substitute graphics to make room for necessary information? Can menus be altered to appear in a more accessible format? Should font sizes be tapered to allow headings and subheadings to fit? Don’t be afraid to alter layout a bit so that your site functions appropriately for every user.

Testing – Make sure you test out your responsive site on a few different people (not from your team) and on multiple devices. Are input methods adapting across devices so that the switch from mouse to touch-screen isn’t an issue? Can they read all of the text necessary to navigate each version of the site? Do they feel as though the user experience is consistent across platforms? Receive feedback on these tests before finalizing the responsiveness with your web designer.

3.   Are there other tools I can use to help responsiveness and conversion rates?

Of course! For anyone looking to boost the effectiveness of their website on a mobile device, there are some basic features of functionality you’re going to want to include. Businesses can benefit greatly, for instance, from finding a method for users to interact with other online users as well as social media. The more interactive your site is, the more likely it is to convert views to sales. Part of the trick here is making sure your user is able to locate data and features effectively.

Below are just a few of the many ways you can increase sales and user experience:

“Get started” feature/Guided tour – This includes anything that will help the user interact with the app or software; aspects may include guidance, best practices, and helpful tips. This can also include a walkthrough of the site to inform users about product features or update users on new features, thereby allowing them to make informed decisions.

Interactive Tutorial – This feature is helpful when you want to encourage a feeling of success or allow the user to experience a product prior to purchase (if you feel instruction is unnecessary for the average consumer to be able to function, make this feature skippable or avoid it altogether).

Design Overlay (aka: Coachmarks) – For more complex site maps or complicated UI, the experience may be simplified for the user with a few quick notes or suggestions.

User Sign-up – This step is necessary to protect information, track user’s preferences and provide personalized content, especially opportunities to purchase.

Badges, Achievements, Trophies – These are awards earned that can be shared with other users and on additional social media; use them to promote certain aspects of your product/service or to attract users to a product or feature they might not have noticed otherwise (do this through events/occasions, challenges). It will also help promote community and a sense of accomplishment in faithful followers.

Auto Sharing/Invite Friends – People who love and purchase your products have friends just like them who will also love and purchase your products. This is a simple way to generate new clientele, promote products recently purchased, and allow customers to share products and purchases online.

Reactions – Provide a way for users to give quick & easy feedback on products while allowing them to view or save recently “liked” products.

Need help? Contact the team at 10twelve today to discuss your specific business needs.