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9 strategic advantages of responsive web design

Ben Obear
May 9, 2015

Responsive web design (RWD) can best be described as web pages designed to provide an optimal viewing and interactive experience. In today's highly competitive business environment, user-friendly responsive web design has become increasingly important.

There's no question that responsive web design speaks to your bottom line by saving you time, and a great deal of money. A well executed responsive web design consistently delivers a professional, high-conversion website that engages visitors in a dynamic manner. Additionally, It also serves as an excellent means of communication, content, and information when dealing with your existing client base.

Other key benefits include the advanced site navigation that should be a smooth process with a very limited amount of resizing, scrolling and panning. Your web designer should ensure that the site navigation is easily accomplished without compromising the website's functionality, or aesthetics. With RWD, the easy to read text should be combined with flexible images that are sized in relative units in order to prevent them from improperly displaying.

Since the grids and the images are fluid, it's easy to fill an allotted space with content while still maintaining the desired appearance. The fluidity of responsive web design is a tremendous advantage that achieves the same result with website content on any device screen. This design approach also applies to screen-layouts, audio/video players, and other UI elements so that they re-adjust themselves on a diverse array of devices from smart phones to tablets.

With the increased importance and use of online audio and video, responsive web design is a perfect solution. The use of high quality,  professionally produced video has shown an explosive growth for many years, and for good reason.

Looking Back...

Not all that long ago, websites were specifically designed to address the requirements of desktop and laptop screen resolution. These simple website designs met the needs of business firms, educational institutions, and individual consumers. That being said, things were very different then.

When we reviewed the websites of major brands from the early to mid 1990s that include Yahoo, IMDb and, the technological and design advancements that we now have with responsive web design becomes even more extraordinary and valuable. Moreover, the recent advances in technology, design elements, devices, and apps were not even in the picture years ago.

These older websites were based on a fixed width approach, and the limitations are now very obvious. To give you a frame of reference, the fixed width approach is very similar to layouts used by newspapers and the print industry where an editorial, advertisement, or advertorial is placed in a layout based on print production guidelines that include safety, trim, bleed and pixels. If the guidelines are not properly followed, the material can end up causing major issues. The ad, or advertorial will be rejected and returned for correction, or the agency will have the opportunity to instruct the publication's production department to correct the digital format. A fee for services will be rendered by the publication.

There is absolutely no reason why today's websites should follow print guidelines, or older web designs. To cite an example, the trim specs for print don’t apply in today's online market since websites can easily be extended in length if it becomes necessary.

In addition, if you take a close look at the manner in which a RWD page is read or simply viewed, it's easy to see that everything depends on the browser, or the device that is being used. By keeping these points in mind, it becomes clear that a pixel based, old school approach is not a good solution for today's business or personal websites. The reason is simple, and it's called — redundant. We have found that once clients embrace RWD, it opens up an entirely new world of opportunities and they never look back.

With the development and tremendous popularity of smart phones and tablets that are capable of surfing the web, things have changed dramatically. The groundbreaking technology advances in smart phones and tablets plus the evolution of the web has resulted in challenges that keep web developers extremely busy creating and developing an array of dynamic solutions.

How are Responsive Websites Different from Mobile Websites?

A mobile site and a responsive web design will effectively optimize your website site so that it works seamlessly on smaller screens with much smoother navigation and faster load times.

With responsive web design you, or your firm (whichever applies) are able to keep your own domain. And, as you well know, this is very important. The only change is the new code on the back-end of your website. Another plus is that this flexible design solution also preserves your organization’s link equity.

In order to maintain your firm's competitive advantage in the marketplace, it's very important to improve your website's user experience for mobile and tablet devices as well as desktops and laptops. Compared to a few short years ago, the tech landscape in 2016 is markedly different. The predictions about the growth of mobile were there many years ago and now, there's no question that mobile is the front runner. Mobile design trends and increased mobile usage will confirm.

According to a research study from The International Data Corporation (IDC), premier global provider of market intelligence, the projections for 2016 mobile device usage by 2 billion plus of the Planet Earth's 3.2 billion people who access the web this year will do so by using a mobile device. Mobile usage hasn’t just caught up with desktop—it has measurably outpaced desktop with a tremendous increase in the sheer numbers of users, and it appears that there is no end in sight. Mobile devices have increased in popularity with distribution levels that have moved  beyond sales forecasts from just a few years ago. Mobile has definitely taken on a life of its own.

From a business perspective, these developments translate into increased sales to business organizations from Fortune 500 firms to SMBs, especially with the increase in BYOD and BYOC. Mobile has also demonstrated a tremendous increase in the consumer market. This growth gives you the opportunity to outperform the competition by increasing your market share and developing new verticals. It's a great time to complete your research, create an action plan, and make your move.

1) Keep branding consistent across all platforms

It is vital that you maintain a consistent branding campaign across all platforms — no exceptions. This holds true whether it's the branding campaign developed for your best selling product or service, your line extensions, or a brand new product or service launch.

There is nothing more confusing whether your commercial transactions are B2B, or B2C than mixed branding messages. The last thing you want is confusion, and that's exactly what will be created with inconsistent branding. This also applies to any downloadable PDFs along with advertisements, adveritorials, direct mail campaigns, brochures, public relations materials, signage, or email marketing.

If your customers are B2C in markets such as fashion, retail, cosmetics, beauty, or spas be prepared for the fact that these customers can become easily upset and angry with mixed branding messages.

2) Increase mobile search traffic via better SEO

The other SEO management consideration is that by managing a single SEO campaign, you can save time and money since it’s much easier than attempting to successfully manage two sites with two separate SEO campaigns. In order to meet the needs for mobile-specific keywords, there is no reason why these local keywords can’t be incorporated into a responsive design site as well. It's that simple.

3) Reduce your bounce rate

There is no question that a slow loading site contributes to high bounce rates when load speeds aren't as fast as people expect because people are impatient. A slow loading site does not contribute to making your visitors feel comfortable, and a lot of them simply won't wait. Use best industry practices

One of the steps you can take to reduce bounce rates is to use personalized content that does not overwhelm visitors. The saying Less is More applies here.

The best approach is to create content that will cater to visitors and deliver what they are hoping to find without content overload. Personalization can help to achieve that goal. Make it easy for them to find what they’re seeking in a relaxed and comfortable manner.

4) Increase mobile conversion rates

Websites that are designed solely for mobile devices have a number of shortcomings such as the lack of advanced navigational techniques found in traditional websites. Since this type of site is strictly for mobile use, the user must make it a point to keep track of two separate website addresses for your website. In today’s business climate, the vast majority of people are busy and since a mobile only site can easily become inconvenient for many people, they may simply decide to look for another source of information that might include a competitor’s site. It's simply not worth the risk of making things difficult and inconvenient for the user.

5) Consolidate web analytics

Google Analytics is now tracking load speeds, so take advantage of that information. Remember that the license and data-collection model of an analytics solution often has more to do with relevance to your requirements than functionality.
* Avoid landing page redirects* Enable compression* Improve server response time* Leverage browser caching* Optimize images

6) Reduce development costs

With responsive web design, it is possible to save a tremendous amount of development expenses, time and maintenance costs. RWD will make it possible for you to completely eliminate the need to develop a desktop version and a mobile version of your website. In fact, Google recommends that when creating responsive websites, web developers follow the industry best practice of web design, namely serving the same HTML for all devices along with the use of media queries to decide rendering on each device.

7) Display specific content on specific devices

The best approach is to start small when picking major breakpoints even if it's tempting to consider various device classes. If you do attempt to define breakpoints based on specific brands, devices, or current operating systems, you run the risk of facing increased costs and valuable time loss.

8) Distribute responsive apps through the app store with PhoneGap

By using Adobe's PhoneGap platform developers can create an app that runs on a variety of mobile devices. This is  accomplished largely by writing the user interface portion of their application with Web technologies such as HTML, JavaScript, and CSS. PhoneGap’s development tools then bundle the files into platform-specific deployment packages. This provides an excellent way to distribute apps.

9) Ensure pages load faster

Today’s net still has some limitations, especially when it comes to heavy graphic design and very large media files. At this point in time, the web is what it is, but the limitation issue can present a loading problem. Since visitors become very impatient with slow loading speeds, most of them cut and run. Frankly, these visitors may never return to your site which is something you can't afford.

There are industry standards for the ideal website loading time that are based on extensive research and experience. Unfortunately, far too many websites don't meet the standards. This loading challenge contributes to high bounce rates when load speeds aren't as fast as people expect. Another factor is that It's also important to be mindful of your visitors and clients when considering very complicated web designs. If you don't take this point under consideration, it very well may come back to cause major problems that could have been easily avoided.

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Ben Obear
San Francisco