Why mobile users should not be ignored
by Daryl Maksymec, Creative/Technical Director, SidePix
In the last few years, online usage patterns have dramatically changed. More and more users view websites on their smartphones and tablets, and we have since passed the tipping point. In 2014, for the first time ever, web traffic from mobile devices eclipsed traffic from desktop computers.
With the staggering, exponential growth of mobile devices, a mobile-friendly responsive website is no longer optional. Users expect to be able to view your website wherever they are: at work on their desktop, at home on their tablet, or on the go on their smartphone.
If users can’t view your website they’ll go somewhere else. It’s that simple. One Google search is all it takes, and in a matter of seconds, they’ll have the information they want on your competitor’s website.
As for Google, in early 2015 they adjusted their search ranking algorithm to boost the placement of websites with mobile-friendly designs and to purge non-responsive websites from their results for users searching on mobile devices. What this means is that in many cases, your potential clients will never have a chance to view your website, even if they are actively searching for it.
A few years ago, a mobile website might have been a luxury, but in today and tomorrow’s market, ignoring mobile users is a mistake.
A Mobile Version of Your Website is not enough
Not all mobile website are made equal. When smartphones started to gain traction in the late 2000’s, the prevailing opinion for mobile website design was that mobile users should view a completely different website because their limited hardware could not handle full websites, which is no longer the case. Using this solution often forces mobile users to view a watered-down, less functional facsimile that pales in comparison to the full-fledged desktop version of the website.
By making a separate website for mobile users and redirecting users to it, you run the risk of sending users to the wrong page, or to a page that doesn’t exist on your mobile site. There is also the problem of sharing links. If a mobile user wants to bookmark a page for later, or share a link with another person, they may end up sharing a link to the mobile version of your website, and often times the person viewing the link will be on their desktop or tablet, possibly leading to confusion and an unfavourable user experience.
Another problem with this approach is the question of what is to be done with smartphones with large screens, tablets, and hybrid/convertible devices. Do they get the watered-down mobile site, or do they get the full-fledged desktop site? And what precisely constitutes a tablet? Where do you draw the line? Some smartphones have screens in excess of 5-6 inches, and some tablets have screens smaller than 7 inches.
Does that mean you need to have 3, or 4, or 5 websites now?
Thankfully there’s a better solution: Responsive Design.
With Responsive Design, your website is built to work on every form factor. Every user views the same website, at the same website address, but the content and design is fluid and changes elegantly to fit the user’s device. No matter if they are viewing your website on a smartphone, tablet, desktop computer, or anything in between, your website remains beautiful and functional.
If a user want’s to bookmark your web page, they can use the same link and pick up where they left off on their other devices. The same goes for sharing links; if a user shares a link over email or social media, everyone can view the same page without missing a beat, no matter what kind of device they’re viewing it on.
All of this takes place on one website, on the same content management system or file, so you don’t need to change content in multiple places if and when you decide to update information.
Making an Existing Website Responsive
Building your website to be responsive from the ground up is the best solution, but in many cases, making a website responsive doesn’t take a complete redesign, and adding responsive elements to an existing website can be more cost effective than remaking a website from scratch.
Adding responsive elements to a website will rarely be as effective as designing a website to be responsive from the get-go, but it can turn a website that is unusable on mobile devices into one that will serve the needs of your clients, often at a fraction of the cost of redesigning your website.