Responsive Web Design – A Critical Digital Marketing Necessity

@Will | Conversion Optimization

It’s no secret, the number of individuals using mobile devices to access the internet is skyrocketing. By 2016, 80% of the US population will use mobile phones. In fact, if you’re a smartphone owner, you have probably already used your phone to garner knowledge from the internet multiple times today.


This dramatic shift in how people are viewing the web is driving businesses everywhere to reevaluate the design of their websites. Meanwhile, the shift to mobile is happening at an extraordinary speed.

  • Tablet sales are expected to exceed 100 million this year and are expected to top notebooks this year.
  • Smartphones usage is growing rapidly (upwards of 60%) in 2013 according to Nielsen.
  • The majority of U.S. mobile subscribers now own smartphones (not feature phones).

For marketers that are responsible for generating engagement on their websites and services, the unavoidable conclusion is to move to a responsive website design (RWD) platform like WordPress to accommodate a million new screens so that your website works equally well on every device. If you have to make the business case, a responsive website is the only way you’ll reach, engage and convert customers to your brand.

Reasons to Move to Responsive Web Design

Obviously, interacting with a website through a smaller touchscreen rather than a desktop or laptop device is a completely different user experience.  So, how should companies that still want to offer a highly usable and impactful web impression via a mobile device deal with this situation? There are two immediate answers:

  1. Build mobile detection into the website and design a second version of the same site that is optimized for the mobile experience.
  2. Design a reactive website that allows your content to resize itself depending on the screen resolution of the device visiting it.

In most cases responsive web design is more than just a web design trend, it’s become a web design requirement and a far better choice because it’s ultimately more compatible more devices and it’s much more practical to maintain a single website.

That being said, here are a few key points to consider when designing a reactive site:

    • Analyze Your Traffic – to uncover what mobile devices visitors are commonly using to browse your site. This will inform you of key design breakpoints (resolutions) to consider and pair with your CSS media queries.  In other words, know the most common screen sizes being used to visit your site and pay particular attention to optimizing the UI and UX at those resolutions.
    • Allow Your Design to Stretch and Contract – as it reaches defined break points and make most elements that are not to be clicked or read relative to each other in size.
    • Keep Your Design Simple and Easy to Use – focus on form following function in relation to the mobile medium – consider text size, button size, positioning, etc.
    • Maintain Relevant Focus – again, keep the design simple and focused on the browsing goals of the website and visitor.
    • Limit Columns – don’t have more than two content columns for tablets and no more than one column for phones.
    • Cross-Browser Test – the ever-loving crap out of it – make sure the navigation, copy, calls to action, and images are all behaving as they should.

When to Consider Responsive Web Design

At Convertiv, we’ve developed new websites for many clients (see: http://theadclub.org/cmo and http://threatpost.com/) and we’ve worked with these clients to create awareness around the importance of a responsive web platform. How do you know when you’re ready for responsive web design? To make that determination, consider the many tell-tale signs:

  • Your visitor traffic and content engagement is low.
  • You rely on IT to update your website.
  • You can’t update content to reflect your offline brand campaigns and therefore your messages are inconsistent.
  • Your content speaks to your product rather than its value.
  • Your content management system is confusing and requires duplication for syndication.
  • Your website platform is hard coded and not utilizing open source technology.
  • You can’t easily build landing pages on the fly.
  • You can’t easily incorporate Google Analytics to track conversion goals.
  • Your site isn’t mobile‐friendly.
  • Your site doesn’t incorporate social media in any way.

For marketers, responsive web design offers a simple yet flexible platform to publish once and have it re-purposed automatically across multiple devices and optimize for search, social, and community in real time. For consumers, it enables an engaging experience with ease of navigation and consumption.

For more information about responsive web design, see fellow Bostonian Ethan Marcotte, the author of Responsive Web Design.

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