More and more clients are asking us about optimising their website to work on mobile and tablet devices such as iPhones and iPads. This is a good idea – Ofcom say that 23% of the world’s population use their phone for internet access – for 15-24 year olds, the figure rises to 46%.
‘Responsive design’ is the latest trend in web design. It refers to the process of designing websites with fluid layouts that seamlessly change depending on the type of device they’re viewed on. For example, a website might be displayed with three columns alongside each other on a wide screen. The same website might automatically be displayed with the columns arranged on top of one another when viewed on a mobile device. https://clearairchallenge.com or https://www.socialsummit.cz/en are examples of fully responsive designs – resize your browser to see how the layout changes.
Lots of people are now getting on the ‘responsive’ bandwagon, but is this always the best option? And for those on a budget, are there cheaper alternatives?
Measuring market demand
In the past, we had to guess how many people were using mobiles to access the internet. For the first time, MRM Worldwide’s Mobile Attitudes Survey provides detailed data on mobile internet usage. The survey suggested that although lots of people use their mobiles to access the internet, most only do so for very specific tasks – such as checking weather forecasts, social networking or reading emails. Far fewer people use their mobiles for general browsing.
Use Google Analytics to discover how many people are using mobile devices to access your website. If a high proportion of your visitors are using mobiles, or your bounce rate is higher for mobile traffic, then it might be worth taking some steps to ensure your website displays properly on smaller screens.
If you have the budget for a fully responsive design then it’s a good option for future-proofing your website – after all, mobile internet usage is set to grow and grow.
However this might not be an option for everyone. There’s a big difference between making your website work perfectly on all devices, to ensuring it works correctly. The latter is a perfectly good option for many websites.
Your website may work fine on modern smartphones without any extra work. These devices are designed to display websites in a similar way to a big screen. You see the website in full, as you would on a big screen, and click to magnify certain areas. Horizontal scrollbars are used to display the page – this can be annoying to some users, but it does make the majority of websites perfectly usable.
An alternative option might be to do some testing and identify any areas of your site that don’t work properly on mobiles. Fixing any specific problem areas will be much cheaper.
So before jumping on the mobile bandwagon, consider your market and use Google Analytics to decide whether it’s worth the investment. And if you do decide to make some changes, think about whether a fully responsive design is needed or whether a compromise measure might do the job just as well.