In the old days, it was easy: almost everyone used a PC, and almost all PCs had the same kind of display. The most difficult thing for a designer aiming to build a website that always looked its best was the size of the user’s screen.
How things change!
Websites look different depending on what you use to view them, and that poses a challenge for any web designer. The last few years alone have seen a huge explosion in the number and type of devices people use to surf the internet. Gone are the days when almost everyone would view your website in the latest version of Internet Explorer. Not only are they now more likely to be using either Chrome or Firefox – they might not even be using a computer at all.
Fifty-eight per cent of the UK population owned a smartphone in 2012, and almost a fifth owned a tablet (sales of which are likely to exceed notebooks this year). They’re heavily used, too: the average UK mobile user downloaded 424 megabytes of data last year, pushing even those eternal early adopters, the Japanese, into second place in a survey of mobile data usage. The UK is a world-leader in multi-platform web usage – and that means your website needs to keep up.
The answer is what we call ‘responsive web design’. This is how we refer to a toolbox of tricks which web designers can use to ensure your website looks its best, however it’s viewed. Responsive web design is about everything from ensuring that a site looks as good on a tiny 6” smartphone screen as it does on a 32” TFT monitor, to building the site so that when a user resizes their browser, the website shifts its content to fit – no more annoying horizontal scroll bars!
This is important because, although apps are a great way to reach phone users, it’s also true that many visitors, including mobile online shoppers, still prefer websites. In fact, we believe in responsive web design so much that this brand new site of ours is built in just that way – try it on another one of your devices, and it will look just as crisp.
A month or so ago, we launched a responsive website for Sleepeezee, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of beds and mattresses. A month after launch, their ‘bounce rate’ – a measure of how quickly a user leaves a website after arriving – is 29%, compared with an industry standard of 50%. Not only that, but the mobile bounce rate is just 32% – a full 10% below what you might expect of a non-responsive website. Those kinds of figures really do speak for themselves.
Responsive websites are smart in more ways than one. Yes, they detect your screen resolution, your platform, and your device, and are able to match themselves to what they find. But you should also think of a new user logging onto your website in the same way that you think of meeting a client for the first time: you want to look your best. In a challenging mobile market, that isn’t as easy as it used to be – but we’re still on top of it.