The Importance of Responsive Design
With social networks and mobile apps increasingly used as marketing and business tools, it can be tempting to think of websites as “traditional” (read: legacy) information and marketing vehicles. You may wonder whether it’s worthwhile to invest in web-oriented activities — such as content updates, site redesigns or SEO — when there are so many other, sexier options available.
The Changing Face of the Web
We would argue that, because of the changing online landscape, websites matter now more than ever before! Social media properties may come and go, and tweets and updates are of-the-moment and can disappear into the ether — but your website will remain the ultimate online destination for your visitors.
But because those visitors are arriving at your website in new and unanticipated ways — via many channels and devices — it’s important to start to think of your website in a more multi-dimensional way. To continue to deliver value to your organization, your website needs to not only use language and content that is relevant to its users, but also adapt to each user’s particular entry point, situation and need.
Gone are the days when all visitors will come to your website directly via the home page or by typing your URL into their browser. Today, social media shares and likes mean that people are increasingly landing on internal webpages to read a particular article or access specific information. If they are not immediately presented with the page they are seeking in the proper format, they will likely leave in frustration.
The widespread use of web-enabled mobile devices has led to the emergence of responsive design. Responsive design ensures that a website can deliver the intended user experience whether it’s viewed on a computer monitor, a tablet, an e-reader or a television.
Responsive layouts are future friendly as they are designed for screens rather than individual devices or operating systems, which are constantly changing. Responsive design helps to streamline the design process by generating one website and style guide that will work on multiple screens and cater to a variety of viewing habits.
But responsive design isn’t always the be-all and end-all of mobile browsing. Based on your key audience goals, motivations and context of use, some of your users may need to use a smartphone to complete certain tasks on your website. If you can identify those specific tasks, a separate mobile design tailored to smartphone users could be more appropriate and deliver the best user experience.
More than the Screen Size
Effective responsive design optimizes layouts not only to screen size, but also to the specific context of use. A user’s experience and browsing behaviour varies dramatically from one device to another — and from one location or scenario to another. A smartphone user rushing out of a meeting may simply be looking to find your contact information, map, or hours of operation. A visitor might read one of your online articles on a tablet while sitting at the airport, but may wait until he is at his desktop before following up on a link to purchase something from your online store.
Infographic Labs found that 70% of iPad users use the tablet while watching television, 57% use it while lying in bed, 25% use it while in the bathroom and 21% access it while shopping and running errands. In some of these cases, the user may be very distracted while in others the user may be intensely focused on the screen. Have you thought about how your website needs to be designed and built to respond to all those various modes of use? A truly responsive design takes these factors into account and adjusts to suit them.
Responsive web design also delivers a more “app-like” experience to mobile users. Instead of having to pinch and zoom through a replica of the desktop website to be able to read the content, a responsive layout delivers a quick-loading, pared-down version of the interface. This design will feature the same visual look and feel of the original website but be suited to someone with a smaller screen. Likewise, responsive designs recognize that clicking with a computer mouse is a completely different way of interacting with a site than tapping with your finger, and accordingly provides different interface experiences for touch screens.
Responsive Design Improves All Design!
Websites that feature a responsive design improve a visitor’s user experience while also simplifying the organization’s web design process. Instead of designing native applications or multiple mobile websites, businesses can use responsive design to build one platform and content management system (CMS) to handle a variety of screens and scenarios. This can dramatically reduce development costs while “future-proofing” the website for emerging devices like Connected TVs and others that have yet to be designed.
Pivot’s Responsive Website
Here at Pivot, our new website follows responsive design principles. Redesigning and launching this new site reaffirmed to us how important it is to truly understand your visitors, the devices they will use to access your website, and their goals upon reaching your site. We could only deliver a site that mattered to our visitors once we understood the actual priorities and contextual scenarios of use of our visitors.
If you would like to chat with one of our experts about our design process or how responsive design can be applied to your website, contact us!