The Benefits of Responsive Design

- September 5, 2012

“Responsive design” has become a bit of a buzz word these days in the marketing world, with many webmasters speaking its praise for providing an optimal user experience for browsing on mobile devices. And there’s no greater advocate to make the case for responsive design than Google. On June 6, 2012, Pierre Far, Google webmaster trends analyst, announced clear guidelines and recommendations on mobile SEO, which also addressed responsive design. While Google still recognized device-specific HTML as a viable alternative, they recommend responsive design, when possible, for the following reasons:

  • Maintaining one URL for your website, regardless of whether it’s being viewed on mobile devices or a desktop, makes it easier for users to respond to calls-to-action on your site, such as a user sharing one of your product pages on their own Facebook page or linking to an article on your website from their own website.
  • By eliminating the need for redirects, responsive design allows users to easily navigate back and forth between pages on your site, with minimal load time.
  • Googlebot user agents only need to crawl your responsive web design pages once to retrieve your content.

While the rationale behind Google’s recommendation is sound, there’s still one critical component to consider before deciding if responsive design is the right solution for your company: Content length. While responsive design takes into account how the design should look, it doesn’t take into account how the page will read. This means that if you have lengthy content on your web pages, your site may fit proportionately on mobile device screens, but users will be scrolling … and scrolling … and scrolling to read it all.

In addition, a mobile user is typically interested in different content than a desktop or tablet user and responsive design may inhibit your ability to tailor content specifically to mobile needs. Mobile users are looking for resources on-the-go, such as finding coupons to use at a store they’re currently shopping in or finding directions to a nearby restaurant.

According to Google’s CPG Blog, tablets are still primarily being used while at home. For example, Google’s research identified that some of the most frequent tablet uses were leisurely activities, including checking email, playing games and social networking.

Below is a graph that illustrates some of the top reasons why SmartPhone owners use the Internet on mobile devices, according to Google.

Although this shouldn’t deter you from taking advantage of the many great benefits of responsive design, it is something to consider before jumping on the bandwagon. You want your site to provide the best experience for users from a design – and a readability – standpoint.

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