It's hard to go anywhere - the gym, the coffee shop, the bank - and not be surrounded by people on their mobile devices. Over half of smartphone users report reaching for their device within minutes of waking up each day. As the number of smartphone and tablet users continues to rise, businesses who want to attract new customers will need to be ready to interact with them on their preferred devices. But with so many different kinds of phones, tablets, browsers, and operating systems, how can you create a website that works with all of them? That's where responsive web design comes in.

What Is a Responsive Website?

Initially, websites were designed with only the desktop user in mind, so they were built to look good on one type of screen. When smartphones came out and people started accessing the Internet from their phones, these sites were glitchy and hard to read. Some companies opted to solve the problem by creating different versions of their websites for different users - one for desktop and one for mobile. Now that the market is flooded with so many different kinds of mobile devices and operating systems, though, creating a new version of your website every time a new system or device comes out is not feasible.

A responsive website solves this problem because it provides an excellent user experience across all devices, operating systems, and browsers. The structure of the website "responds" to the device and platform being used to access it. If it's being viewed on a mobile device, tablet, or laptop, the website knows this and automatically adjusts the font size, picture size, layout, screen resolution, and other elements accordingly. This means that the viewing experience is customized to the device each visitor is using.

Your Customers Already Expect Responsive Design

More than half of all Internet users are accessing the web from their mobile devices. That means that all those people waiting in line at Starbucks are doing more than checking Facebook on their phones. Among other things, they are accessing websites, shopping for products and services, and researching local businesses. So when they visit your website, what’s their experience like?

People expect businesses to have websites that are easy to navigate and enjoyable to use on every platform. And when that’s not the case, they move on quickly. Google reports that 61% of its users are unlikely to return to a mobile site if they had trouble accessing it, and 40% visit a competitor’s site instead. If your website isn't built to offer a satisfying experience to mobile users, not only are they passing you by, they are giving their business to someone else.

Your Conversion Rates Will Increase

Think responsive web design is only for big companies operating in large markets? Actually, local businesses have a lot to gain by building websites that accommodate all kinds of mobile users. Data suggests that 88% of consumers who search for a type of local business on a mobile device will call or go to that business within 24 hours.

Additionally, a responsive web design gives the customer a seamless experience as they transition from mobile devices to other viewing platforms. If someone looks at your responsive website initially on their phone, it will look and respond the same when they view it on their laptop later. That continuity is important because Google says that 90% of mobile device owners will switch between multiple screens to accomplish a task.

It's Essential for Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Since 2015, Google has used mobile-friendliness as a ranking factor when they list website search results. Their developer guidelines recommend responsive web design and give priority to responsive websites. Even if your website has other helpful features or great design elements, if it isn't responsive, it will be listed lower on search engine results. Responsive design is essential to search engine optimization.

This affects more than just your potential mobile customers. Even if your clients are performing Google searches at home on their laptops or PCs, you will be listed higher in search engine rankings if your website is designed to be responsive. A responsive design will introduce more customers to your business across the board, whether they are using mobile devices or not. (By the way, SEO is one of our favorite topics. Read more here.)

Less Expensive to Maintain

It may be cheaper up front to add a mobile-friendly version of the website you already have than to build a fully responsive website. In the long run, though, maintaining two websites is not cost effective. With responsive design, there's only one website to manage and update for all your users, mobile and desktop.

We also talk to a lot of clients who initially think they need a mobile app for their business when a responsive website would be easier for their mobile users to access and would accomplish everything they want an app to do. Plus, the cost to build a responsive website and maintain it is much less than the cost to build and maintain a mobile app. (Read more about how to decide whether your business needs an app here).

The team at Midwestern Interactive can help your business tap into the growing mobile market by building a responsive website that visitors will enjoy across every platform and device. We love to build websites that delight users, and we know how to make your business stand out to mobile customers. Contact us today, and let's get started.

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