If you’ve ignored previous warnings and your business isn’t taking advantage of responsive web design right now or planning on it in the very near future, you are in danger of going out of business in 2014. There are three exceptions to the rule; 1) you don’t depend on your website to stay in business, 2) you have no competitors, or 3) you are familiar with responsive design, you’ve already verified it’s not the right fit for you, as Linkedin has, and you have an alternative mobile strategy. If any of these three apply to you, then you’re ok, carry on. But if your company depends on its website enough that losing the business it brings to you would be a serious blow, getting a responsive website before the end of the year should be your #1 online marketing goal.
If the term “responsive web design” is new to you, don’t feel bad, I promise you’re with the majority. In about 20 seconds you’ll know what it is and be able to look smart by talking about responsive design at dinner parties. Responsive web design is simply this–a website design that adjusts gracefully to fit on desktop, tablet, and smartphone browsers. Ever pull up a website on your smartphone and it was just a very tiny version of what you would see on your desktop, so you zoomed way in, and then moved the website around and enlarged and shrunk it as needed to read text and click on things? That was not a responsive website. Or if it was, it left out the key point of adjusting “gracefully.” A responsive website looks good no matter whether you’re looking at it on a phone, tablet, or desktop.
If you read Peter Cashmore’s piece from almost a year ago proclaiming 2013 to be The Year of Responsive Web Design you might wonder if you’re too late. No, you’re not, because in all likelihood all your competitors are late to the game as well. 2013 turned out to be the year when those companies and industries that tend to stay somewhere just behind the cutting edge of online marketing and web design got their acts together when it comes to responsive design. Most businesses lag behind the cutting edge by at least a year when it comes to such things. You’ve been safe for the time being, but now your competitors are figuring things out.
Why Does It Matter?
Because it’s better, and everyone else is doing it.
To illustrate why responsive is better, I’ve taken the stats from an anonymous website that is widely representative of many others. If you use a tool like Google Analytics on your website you can look at these same stats and gauge how urgent the matter is for your company.
Mobile vs Desktop
This pie chart on the right shows the percentages for visitors coming using mobile, tablet, and desktop devices for the past 12 months. You can view this pie chart for your own website by first selecting the past 12 months for your date range, and then on the left navigating to Audience > Mobile > Overview in Google Analytics. On the lower right you’ll see a small pie chart button. Push that, and you’ll see a chart like this one.
In this case the website receives almost 40% of its traffic from mobile devices (for the purposes of this post I’m going to lump tablets into the “mobile” category). Given that this website is not responsive, nor has a mobile version, that’s a hefty chunk of visitors who are receiving a sub-optimal experience. But wait, it gets better! And by “better” I mean worse.
What this chart does not show us is the trend. This second set of pie charts shows us the direction in which things are headed. To get this chart I went to the date range in Google Analytics and checked the “Compare to:” box and selected “Previous period.” Now we are seeing a comparison between mobile vs. desktop visitors for the past 12 months and the 12 months preceding those. The bottom line–this website’s mobile visitors doubled in one year. That by itself should be a compelling enough reason to go responsive.
In an example of the benefits responsive design can bring, in August of this year my online marketing firm launched a new, responsive website for The Storage Center, a self storage company with locations in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. In the United States the self storage industry is seasonal, and it is normal to see reservations decline each year between August and November. As expected, The Storage Center did see an overall decline in reservations, but whereas that decline was quite pronounced on the desktop, mobile reservations (which were taking place on the previous website, despite it not being mobile friendly), increased by 5.5% rather than dropping by 20-30%.
Responsive Design, What Does It Cost?
If you have a relatively simple brochure website for your business, modifying your existing website to be responsive design may cost you as little as several hundred dollars to perhaps a few thousand. That is assuming the design lends itself to becoming responsive. But if you haven’t redesigned your website in several years chances are you’ll need to go through a complete redesign process and the answer to what it will cost is, as usual, “it depends.” If you have a vendor you work with you on your website, simply ask them if it’s possible to overhaul your existing website to be responsive, and what it will cost.
The Future Is Mobile
While going responsive can present challenges for website owners and online marketers, I return to my previous point that without a mobile-friendly website your future online is bleak. If you’re not providing a mobile-friendly experience for your customers, they’ll bounce off your website and go to your competitor whose website is easier to use. The future is mobile, as we see people increasingly favoring their mobile devices over desktop computers. Nielsen says that over 60% of all mobile phone owners in the US use a smartphone. A recent study by Walker Sands Digital showed mobile traffic to its client base increasing by 171 since Q3 2011. Statista says that 5 billion people will use mobile phones by 2017. Making your website responsive is a small price to pay to reach all these people.
By the way, in case you feel like I’m being a bit preachy, I’m preaching as much to myself as to you–my own firm’s website doesn’t have a responsive site yet. Yeah, yeah, the cobbler’s children have no shoes. But we’re working on our new site which will be up before 2014, you can count on it.
Have you taken your website responsive? Have you seen benefits from the change?