Two iPhones (1091302)

For better or worse, today’s world is always on the move. Some 57 percent of all U.S. online activity occurs over smartphones and tablets, with many consumers and businesses conducting their online searches and making their purchasing decisions through these devices. Is your company’s website optimized to shine on the small screen?

If your site offers a confusing, cluttered, or hard-to-navigate experience on a tablet or smartphone, you run the risk of losing a lot of business to your more mobile-friendly competitors. Fortunately, you can eliminate this obstacle by equipping your website with a responsive design. Let’s examine how this kind of design simplifies search for your online customers so that you can make more sales.

What Is Responsive Web Design?

A responsive web design is one that can modify its onscreen configuration to suit whatever type of device has gained access to it. When visitors view your site from a desktop computer monitor, they see the full-featured design with all of its bells and whistles. But if your website detects a tablet or smartphone screen of a certain size, it may:

  • Drop certain less critical features
  • Reduce its screen layout from three columns to two or one, with the viewer scrolling down to view the whole the page
  • Replace traditional clickable tabs with a drop-down touch menu

These simplifications help to ensure that your website remains easily readable and usable at any size. The easier and more pleasant the user experience, the more likely the user is to keep browsing your site — and hopefully making a purchase or contacting you for more information.

Responsive Sites vs. Mobile Sites

Responsive website design isn’t your only option for bringing your commercial website into the mobile era. You can also opt to create a dedicated mobile website that exists alongside your full-sized website. Unlike a responsive website, a dedicated mobile is designed purely to accommodate mobile devices. This drastically stripped-down version of your full-sized site focuses on delivering only the most important information and user navigation options.

Which approach should you choose? A dedicated mobile website can feel faster than its responsive cousin, and it’s usually cheaper to create as well. On the other hand, that mobile design will live on its own URL (with “m.” added to the address line to designate it as a mobile site). While today’s search engines are smart enough to reroute viewers as needed, you’re still stuck with building and maintaining two distinct sites. You may also want your viewers with medium-sized devices to have access to a few of those features that simply wouldn’t fit on a dedicated mobile site.

Whether you decide to create a responsive website, a dedicated mobile website, or some combination of both, you need to make that change as soon as possible — not least because Google gives preferences in rankings to mobile-friendly sites.