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June 24, 2015

What is Responsive Design? And what your business needs to know.

Author: Kristen Bachmeier

The topic of responsive design is coming up more and more. Clients are asking for a “responsive” website after reading about the topic on websites, in magazines, and learning about it from business associates. I thought I would put together this brief primer on “Responsive Design” so that as small-business owners you can quickly understand what responsive design is, and why it matters for your business

Atilus has actually been at the forefront of responsive design. In fact, every site we’ve developed (including larger-scale applications) have been responsive.

What is Responsive Design?

Responsive design is pretty simple. If you open up a website full screen – and then change the size of your browser – and the corresponding website adjusts (elements shift, things become smaller, etc.) this is an example of a responsive site. Quite literally a responsive site “responds” to the size of the display it’s being presented.

Take a look at the image below to see an example:

Jill mockup

On the wide screen it displays like a normal website, but as the screen gets smaller, it re configures – and makes more sense for a smaller touch screen.

This site (the Atilus site) is a great example of a responsive site. If you look at it on a desktop it will look different than a tablet, and different than on a mobile phone. In fact ALL of Atilus’ websites have been responsive for over 2 years. And the web, and design – have come a long way since then.

Why Responsive Matters

At this exact moment in time – you can get away without having a responsive or mobile friendly site. As I explained in my recent post about mobile-geddon – Google is NOT DESTROYING NON-MOBILE-FRIENDLY SITES. But, that day is coming. Mobile is quickly taking over desktop traffic and even baby-boomers and beyond are spending far more time on their mobile phones and the Internet than even on the TV.

The 50+ age group is the fastest growing demographic online… [and they spend 50% more time online than watching tv – on average 19 hours/week!] – Immersion Action

So why does Responsive Matter? 

responsive-exampleYour Prospects are on Mobile Devices – Because it speaks to the larger (and longer-term) trends in Internet use. Sure, desktops will always have their place for power users or creators, but for many people tablets and smart phones are the primary way they surf the Internet and find what they’re looking for. Responsive allows you to provide a good experience no matter what the device.

Google Cares About Responsive – More than 90% of local purchases are made after turning to search engines. Yes Google and the other search engines are 20x as popular as Facebook/Twitter when it comes to making purchasing decisions. Google has already said “mobile-friendly” sites will be important moving forward. long-term, if your site isn’t mobile friendly (responsive, fast, etc.) you won’t be found and your competitors will be.

Where Responsive Fails

With a LOT of care, fenageling and optimization, a responsive site can quickly break down. Without getting too technical – responsive sites are based on approximations and percentages. In fact, some of the most prolific developers and designers – in select cases, continue to recommend having a completely separate mobile/tablet friendly versions of your site.

Which makes sense.

Rather than catering to 1 common denominator with one code and design base – instead you can break that up, and serve the different audiences (tablet, smart phone, desktop) a site or application that looks perfect for the device they are on. This however, can cost more and cause extra time updating when formats and screens change.

Long-story short, more than 90% of all purchases are made after searching online. Most of those searches are now being done from a mobile device – responsive design allows you to get your product and service in front of your audience in a format that’s easy for them to read and making sure your site is responsive now will ensure that Google keeps your site at the top of the search rankings.   

Kristen Bachmeier

Kristen Bachmeier is Atilus' Director of Operations and helps to oversee all client accounts and day-to-day operations. Kristen also has a background in digital marketing, and has been working in the digital marketing space since 2012.

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