In 2010, Morgan Stanley released an 87-page report declaring that mobile would rule the world by 2015. Well, here we are five years later and while we might not have hoverboards yet, mobile has exploded as predicted. With the huge influx of smartphone adoption, device fragmentation, and mobile Internet usage, creating a responsive web experience for all devices is no longer an option—it’s a requirement.
What is responsive web design? The folks over at Froont have a great blog post with helpful visuals, but essentially, RWD is the belief that websites should respond to the needs of the users and the devices they’re using by changing the layout of the site based on the size and capabilities of the device.
Why is that important?
1. Mobile usage
As predicted, mobile usage did surpass desktop usage for the first time in history in 2014. Mary Meeker, the same woman who made the 2010 prediction, also reported that global mobile data usage increased by 80 percent from 2013 to 2014 and it doesn’t show signs of slowing. But that’s not all. According to Google, 77 percent of mobile searches occur at home or at work, places where desktop computers are likely to be present. Even when there are desktops available, people are on their phones.
2. User experience
According to mobiForge, 46 percent of mobile web users are unlikely to return to a website they had trouble accessing in the past and 33 percent of tablet users are less likely to purchase online from a company if they experience poor website performance. The goal of your business should be to solve a problem, not create one. The same should go for your website. You should strive to make the lives of your users easier.
3. Device fragmentation
Before responsive design, the prevailing practice was to create “Mobile-versions” of websites. Now, with almost 20,000 different types of Android devices (and countless other phones, tablets, TVs,) with varying screen sizes and resolutions, responsive design is more important than ever. How can you possibly account for all those combinations? You can’t. So you design an experience that gracefully expands and contracts to intelligently fill the corners of the device screen. If you’ve done your job correctly, your website should look as good on an iPhone as it does on a 40” flatscreen.
4. Multi-screen World
In August of 2012, Google released a study called The New Multi-screen World: Understanding Cross-platform Consumer Behavior. Without getting too deep into the behavioral findings of that report, the key insight here is that the device we choose to use is often driven by our context: where we are, what we want to accomplish and the amount of time needed. Often times tasks start on mobile devices and end on PCs and vice versa. To help users complete those tasks, we need to provide a seamless experience across all devices and that’s where responsive web design comes into play.
5. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
In December of 2014, Google announced that they would be giving preferential treatment to websites that they consider to be “mobile-friendly.” If responsive web design was a nice-to-have before, this change has made it a need-to-have. Before, it was a courtesy, now your site will be penalized in search results for not abiding by the new standard of the web. Wondering if Google considers your website “Mobile-Friendly”? Check out their free tool and see for yourself.
These are exciting times we live in. Our clients rely on us to push them to stay ahead of the curve and best serve their customers. To quote Google’s Javier Perez, “Let’s ditch the pinching, scrolling and aimless tapping, and welcome the new wave of mobile-friendly sites.”
Welcome to 2015, the year of responsive web design.
Image credit: Google Mobile Guide