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Do You Need a Responsive Website? (Part 1)

Various devices that can display webpages
What is responsive?

Responsive is the new cool kid on the block - everyone is talking about him, and everyone wants him. But do we really know who “he” is?

The technical side can be complicated. A whole lot of work and thought goes into creating a responsive site, but for the sake of simplicity, a responsive website responds to your screen size. It changes layout, font sizes, image dimensions, and more to make it possible to use all of the content on whatever device those geniuses think up next.

What about mobile?

This new way of thinking (responsive) has largely replaced mobile-specific websites. I know what you’re thinking... “But aren’t mobile sites the same as responsive?” Short answer, no.

Mobile sites look specifically at your mobile device, and then give you a completely separate website from the desktop version. All of the content is edited and uploaded separately, the URLs are different (so links from outside sources won’t be the same), and it doesn’t work for anything you haven’t pre-specified (like say, the new tablet coming out). While a mobile site makes your site (or some of it) accessible to some mobile users, it won’t be as flexible in the future, as easy to maintain, or as smart of an investment as making a true responsive site. If you’d like to read more about responsive versus mobile, please read this article by Bruce Lawson.

So do I need it?

The question you’re probably asking yourself now is “Do I need a responsive site, or will static be good enough?”

You’ll need to consider the following (see Part 2 for more detail):
  1. What devices your visitors are using.

    Depending on your audience, they may be using different kinds of devices. It’s important to do your research to find out what devices your site’s visitors are using to view your site.

  2. Your site’s visitors need to see all the content.

    It’s important to consider that when people arrive on your website that they will be looking for content. The easiest way to be sure they can see it on any device (and not have to fumble around scrolling sideways) is to have a responsive site.

  3. Time and money.

    Your budget and time constraints are key to building a website, no matter the format. A responsive site will bump the price up a little, but the long-term benefits can make it worth it. Conversion rates are higher when users have a good experience with your site, which means more money/donations/signups for your business.

  4. Where your website lives.

    If your site is hosted on a the web, you’ll need to consider that a lot of people are browsing from different devices. However, under some controlled circumstances (like on an intranet) your visitors may not have access from anywhere but a desktop.

  5. How long you want your site to last.

    If you’re creating a temporary site, it may not be necessary to make it responsive. By developing a responsive site, it will easily last several years and keep up with the trends.

  6. Visitor experience and recommendations.

    Users are far more likely to recommend a website they’ve had a good experience with, and since more and more people are browsing the web on tablets and smartphones, it’s important to keep that experience in mind.

So when it comes down to it...

It’s important to talk about your visitor’s needs, your time schedule, and your budget. Do your research about your audience and base your interaction with them on how they are accessing your site. It’ll be easier to figure out your needs once you nail down your market. After all, it’s all about the best user experience.

Continue to Part 2