According to GlobalWebIndex quarterly report for Q3 2015, over 80% of Internet users own a smartphone. 2 of 3 people consume media content via both mobile devices (like tablets or smartphones) and PCs\laptops. This is a trend that shows the constant decline in desktop usage when it comes to surfing the Internet.
That trend forced the developers back in 2010 to introduce the new approach in web design — the responsive design. It declares a new stack of tools and technologies allowing to create a unified code for a website that will make it compatible with all kinds of devices where it can be launched.
Of course, you have heard about responsive design, which has already become a byword for web design. However, is device compatibility the only advantage of responsive design? Let’s dig a bit deeper on why each web startup needs it.
Widen Your Audience
The more devices your web product is compatible with, the more users will interact with it. Thus, the more users will like it and be ready to pay for it. That looks like a pretty obvious opportunity to increase your potential audience.
However, consider that the number of Internet users grows by 10-15% per year (according to the Internet Live Stats). More and more people browse the Internet and use different technologies via tablets and smartphones, simply having no reasons (or even opportunities) to do that from a desktop. How many of them make your potential audience? If you want your website to be friendly and satisfy those new users, you MUST make your web product compatible with their devices in the first place. And that trend already makes switching to responsive design not an opportunity, but rather a necessity for each web site fighting for user attention.
Satisfy and Exceed User Expectations
The power of responsive design is often hugely underestimated when talking of user satisfaction. Let’s just list a few of advantages that it brings to end users.
First, mobile-friendly sites load faster, which can be critical in areas with low Internet speed. Second, allowing users to switch devices and keep using your site is still an advantage so rare it will definitely make your product stand out. Finally, responsive design offers usage patterns easy to get used to and hard to refuse from. If your site is the only one offering to order a custom pizza from a tablet in only three taps, that’s an experience a user will memorize and enjoy again and again.
Being satisfied with the experience your site brings, a user will associate this emotion with your brand and that’s how people turn into brand ambassadors and advice products to their friends. And what can be more effective than word-of-mouth marketing?
Mobile-Friendly Means Google-Optimized
Google constantly updates its search algorithms and ranks sites compatible with different devices higher than others. And prior to April, 2015 switching to responsive design was indeed mostly a matter of choice and gaining more score points for search engines. But then Google declared it’s going to rank the mobile-unfriendly sites significantly lower.
Lower ranks means less organic traffic and less people ready not just to pay attention to your product, but are looking for it to solve their problems. And you don’t want to loose the core audience of your product.
The logic behind Google algorithms is pretty simple. Responsive design brings not only the comfort of using a web site on different devices, it gets also technically optimized thanks to one and unified code, which is easier to be crawled by search engine bots.
It’s Even Maintenance-Friendly
Technically, responsive design can be expressed in three main approaches:
1. Fluid Grids. When writing the code, web developers use fluid grids to explain how many percents each its part must take on the screen (contrary to counting pixels approach used before). Thus, with fluid grids your site is ready for all kinds of screens, starting from smartwatches and ending with Smart TVs and Retina displays.
2. Fluid Images. This is very similar to fluid grids and specifies the percentage of the screen each image should be shrinked to on the display. Again, a single string of code can define one size of an image for all devices.
3. Media queries. This is a CSS technology allowing to adjust the site view depending on the screen it is launched on. For instance, if your three-column site is launched on a smartphone (the necessary criteria should be additionally defined), a media query will force these columns to be rearranged and shown, say, one under another in expanding sections to perfectly fit the display.
Now imagine maintaining responsive design in terms of code. If something doesn’t look so well on a specific device, you can always add an additional media query instead of writing an additional site version or trying to readjust the whole site grid to fit this specific device. If you want to update your site, you update a unified code rather its instances for different screens.
Besides, refusing from responsive design and creating alternative site versions for different devices doesn’t promise anything good. Just imagine testing the compatibility of your site instances with a huge variety of currently shipped devices having the resolutions varying from 320x240 up to 4K. And that’s a pain in the neck that you’re going to go through on each small design update.
Responsive Design Shapes Products
Switching to responsive design even before you have started to work on your web product may appear extremely handy in designing its functionality, defining priorities and overall making it successful.
Imagine that you want your complex web analytics system to be used on smartphones as well. Which functions should be immediately available on the mobile screens? Is this design ready for the features you decided to postpone implementing? Will the user be able to switch from a laptop to a tablet and keep using your product with no problems?
These are the questions that responsive design approach may raise and help you make important decisions or provide ideas to make your product better even before you have released it.
Here at RubyGarage we have been using responsive design in every single product we work on for a few years already. Why? Because of all the reasons mentioned above, but also because we don’t know any startup that has become successful without using responsive design. And do you?