Smartphone and tablet adoption rapidly increases, so does the importance of mobile-friendly websites. Smartphones and tablets have changed the approach toward design and user experience. Before the spread of mobile devices with advanced web-browsing capability, web designers had only one primary challenge to deal with keeping the same look and feel of their websites. However, interacting with websites on smartphones and tablets is not the same as doing that on a desktop computer monitors. Factors such as Click versus Touch, Screen-size, Pixel-resolution, support for Adobe’s Flash technology, optimized markup and many more have become crucial while creating websites with Responsive Design.
If SEO is a core component of your digital marketing strategy, having a mobile–friendly website is becoming essential. Mobile sales have already overtaken desktop sales, and mobile Internet usage is predicted to overtake desktop internet usage by 2014. It is only logical that mobile search will overtake desktop search at some point in the near future as well.
What is Responsive Web Design?
Responsive Web Design (RWD) is an approach of laying-out and coding a website such that the website provides an optimal viewing experience — ease of reading and navigation with a minimum of resizing, panning, and scrolling — across a wide range of devices (from desktop computer monitors to mobile phones).
The designer creating a Responsive Design should ensure that the website’s navigation elements, screen-layouts, text, images, audio/video players and other UI elements re-adjust themselves on a variety of devices. Thus, one need not spend extra time and money in creating and maintaining one “mobile-site version” and another “desktop-site version” of her website.
Now, having understood what is Responsive Web Design, let us Check the advantages and why Responsive Design is important while creating websites.
Advantages of Responsive Design
1. Super Flexible
Responsive web design sites are fluid, meaning the content moves freely across all screen resolutions and all devices. Both the grids and the images are fluid. Just as a liquid spreads out or draws in to allow its content to fill an allotted space and retain its appearance, responsive web design’s fluidity achieves the same result with website content on a device screen.
2. Excellent User Experience
3. Cost Effective
The advantages of having a single site that conforms to the need of all devices are significant when compared to having two separate websites. One website costs less than two, and the savings can be substantial. Sites designed solely for mobile device traffic don’t offer the advanced navigational techniques found in traditional websites, and they also require the user to maintain two separate web addresses for your site. This is inconvenient for most people and can cause them to check out the competition’s website. Responsive web design enhances SEO efforts by having all your visitors directed to a single site no matter what they prefer to use as a device.
4. It is Recommended By Google
With 67 percent search market share, when Google speaks, search marketers listen. Google states that responsive web design is its recommended mobile configuration, and even goes so far as to refer to responsive web design as the industry best practice.
This is because responsive design sites have one URL and the same HTML, regardless of device, which makes it easier and more efficient for Google to crawl, index, and organize content. Contrast this with a separate mobile site which has a different URL and different HTML than its desktop counterpart, requiring Google to crawl and index multiple versions of the same site.
Additionally, Google prefers responsive web design because content that lives on one website and one URL is much easier for users to share, interact with, and link to than content that lives on a separate mobile site. Take for example a mobile user who shares content from a mobile site with a friend on Facebook who then accesses that content using a desktop, which results in that user viewing a stripped down mobile site on their desktop. This creates a less than optimal user-experience, and because of the large emphasis Google is now placing on user-experience as a ranking factor, this is essential to take into account with regards to SEO.
5. Very Easy to manage
Having a separate desktop and mobile site requires having separate SEO campaigns. Managing one site and one SEO campaign is far easier than managing two sites and two SEO campaigns. This is a key advantage a responsive website has over a separate mobile site. That being said, there are benefits to having a mobile-specific SEO strategy, such as optimizing for keywords that are more likely to be searched when someone is on their smartphone. For example, someone performing a mobile search for a local restaurant may be more inclined to use the word “nearby” in their search query. However, a separate mobile site is not a requirement for a mobile SEO strategy, and there’s no reason why mobile-specific keywords can’t be incorporated into a responsive design site as well.
At the end it is your decision, whether you take it or not.
SEO Benefits of responsive design
With more people using their smartphones and tablets to browse the internet, it has become increasingly important to create a website that works across multiple platforms. After exploding onto the scene in a blaze of glory in early 2012, responsive web design (or RWD) is now firmly established as the best way to create a website mobile visitors love, and has become a central feature of the modern web design landscape. 2013 may have been hailed as “The Year of Responsive Design”, but RWD is far from last year’s news.
In simple terms, responsive design means a website’s pages reformat themselves depending on which device they are being displayed on, ensuring that whether the content is viewed on a phone, tablet, or desktop computer, the website will remain user-friendly. Why has this made such waves in the web industry? This is remarkably different from previous mobile solutions of creating a separate mobile site or a dynamically served mobile site.
But when it comes to SEO, can a responsive layout increase the chances of a website succeeding in the SERPs? (SPOILER ALERT!) The answer is a resounding yes, and here’s why.
Google Loves Responsive
And since Google is the divine being you’re trying to impress with your website, it is wise to pay attention to what Google loves. Google not only recommends RWD as the best way to target mobile users , but also favors mobile-optimized sites when presenting results for searches made on a mobile device. This is especially true when mobile users search for local services.
There is still some debate surrounding the issue of whether a separate mobile website or a single, responsive site is the best route to take, but from an SEO perspective, the latter is generally the better option. Separate mobile websites have their own URL and different HTML to their desktop counterparts, whereas responsive sites use one URL and one set of pages and files, making it simpler for Google to crawl and index content.
One Website, One URL
Building a separate mobile website does have a few benefits of its own, and in some cases creating a standalone mobile version works well. If a website features a lot of content (a news site, for example), a responsive version of the website could soon become the “scrolling version”, with users having to give their index fingers a serious work out just to navigate through the content. This is where a mobile site, with content which has been carefully refined for mobile browsing, can come in handy.
From an SEO perspective, one of the main challenges posed by having a separate mobile site is that you will need to build the authority of this site from scratch, and most separate mobile sites do not rank well in search engines, as they are canonicalized to their desktop counterparts. On the other hand, redesigning your website as responsive will enable you to maintain your backlinks, and will mean that you can focus your SEO on one single site. This means all of your links will be directed to one domain (as opposed to one mobile website and one desktop site), giving your responsive website a boost in the SERPs.
Furthermore, if you have a responsive website, you can build social shares for just one URL, and when the site does get shared, wherever the link is viewed – whether on a mobile, tablet, or on desktop – all of the content will be clear and easy to navigate.
Responsive Helps Combat a High Bounce Rate
Even if a website is sitting pretty in search results, if it doesn’t work effectively for mobile and tablet users, bounce rate will be a big problem. Mobile websites can suffer from a high bounce rate if the content they offer is too stripped down, or too dissimilar from the content offered on the desktop site. Google will interpret this high bounce rate as a sign that a website isn’t offering relevant content to users, which is likely to lead to a drop in rankings.
A responsively designed site combats this problem by presenting all of the same content found on the desktop site, but in a functional way. RWD means that there is no need to compromise on the content you choose to display, this ensures visitors always receive the information they are looking for – which keeps them on page!
User Experience is Enhanced
Websites are essentially a tool for sharing content. A user-friendly site makes it easier for visitors to find, absorb, and pass on this content. Above all else, responsive design places an emphasis on designing for the user – and with user experience being a big ranking factor, it makes sense that Google is encouraging developers to embrace RWD.
If visitors are browsing a site via their mobile or tablet, they should be able to view all of its content as easily as desktop users. Say you spot something on a website whilst browsing on your computer, and want to send it to a friend who will view it on their phone. If the website is responsive, and has been designed well, the content will work just as well on their screen as on yours.
Responsive design helps modern websites appeal to modern users; users who are increasingly likely to traverse the internet using a mobile or tablet device, but who still expect their desktop experience to be as smooth as ever. Going responsive is the most effective way to make the most of mobile and tablet traffic, and to offer visitors the best possible user experience.