In April 2015 Google made an announcement that solidified what many of us in the industry already knew and practiced. Having a site that is mobile-friendly will increase your search engine rankings and better your chances of being found. Analysis of web device usage now shows mobile devices have surpassed desktop computers as our primary method of accessing the web. This is not news to most people, as it reflects our personal habits.
Building mobile-friendly websites has been part of our service since we opened our doors, however the approach has changed, I believe due to the variety of devices that have been introduced to the market.
Back in 2007 the first iPhone was launched, and it introduced a "real" web browser for a mobile device, one that behaved similarly to its desktop counterpart. For those of us who browsed the web on mobile phones pre-iPhone, this was a huge breath of fresh air and in the ensuing months and years mobile web browsing became a thing. The only drawback, which we were happy to overlook at the time, was all the pinching and scrolling. Soon, after the initial euphoria, we realized that it's kind of annoying to have to scroll to see the whole site, and the practice of optimizing websites for smartphones became the new standard. To do this, web developers would create a separate website specifically designed for mobile devices, often with an different URL (e.g. http://m.domainname.com instead of http://www.domainname.com). While this addresses the pinching and scrolling issue, the major drawback was that the mobile site was a completely different entity from the main site with different pages, different content and different behavior. Most frustrating was doing a Google search on your phone and finding yourself redirected to the mobile homepage when clicking on a search result.
When we started developing mobile sites, we initially addressed the search result issue by creating separate templates for mobile and desktop, but still serving the same content. This allowed our clients to maintain a single site, single URL structure and navigation, but present the appropriate display depending on the device.
When tablets, led by the iPad, were introduced to the market, the rules were changed once again. Because of the variety of sizes we could no longer assume the device's width, so designing for specific screen dimensions was no longer an option. This introduced the concept of responsive web design, in that the content of your site "responds" to the actual width of your browser window. This freed developers from needing to design and maintain two separates sites, one for desktop and one for mobile, but also added the complexity of having not just one design to implement, but about 7 or 8.
About 95% of the sites we've developed in the last 2 years have been responsive. So that means that no matter what device you're on you will see a website that looks ggod and is functional. You can test this on our client sites on your desktop browser by adjusting the screen width (not on this site currently, it is out of date unfortunately) and you will see how the design responds to the width, making sure all the content is visible and no horizontal scrolling is necessary.
This is particularly challenging for certain types of websites – eCommerce sites for example* – when there is a lot of information that needs to be displayed and you are trying to accommodate desktop to smartphone and everything in between. And because we are not creating just one layout but many it does add to the cost of developing a site. However, it is well worth the cost if it means that your site will get preference when Google is serving up results.
A few useful resources....
If you'd like to get your site optimized for desktops to smartphones and everything in between, give us a call at 941.312.7384 today!
* To see an example of how we've handled eCommerce sites successfully using responsive web design go check out Shop The Great Escape.