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12 Important Advantages of Responsive Web Design

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This post is part of a series called How to Make Responsive Business Websites (Tutorial Guide).
What is Responsive Web Design? (Definition + Examples)
25 Best Responsive Business Website Design Examples

There is no denying that responsive web design has been gaining in popularity and importance ever since Google announced that mobile-friendly, responsive websites will see a boost in their search engine rank in 2015.

However, responsive design goes way back. In fact, the first website with a layout that adapts to different browser viewport widths was designed around 2002. Thanks to the advancement in technology and the fact that designing for the web always meant designing for a myriad of screen sizes, responsive web design was a natural result.

But, it wasn’t until 2010 when the term responsive web design was officially coined by Ethan Marcotte, an independent web developer who also authored a book about responsive web design.

Since then, technology advanced even more and we’ve seen an increasing number of people turn to their smartphones and tablets to not only make calls and send messages but also to browse the news and other websites of interest. In the future, responsive web design importance is sure to continue as most experts predict continuing high levels of mobile device usage.

When you add all those things up, it’s clear that responsive web design is here to stay. More importantly, there are quite a few advantages of responsive web design. In this article, we'll go over responsive web design features and benefits. We’ll also show you how your website and business can benefit from adopting it.

The Core of Responsive Web Design

Responsive design is possible due to the core principles that every designer, as well as every modern framework and CMS, adhere to:

1. Fluid Grids

Fluid grids are at the very core of responsive design. Grids allow you to align elements on your page and lay them out in a visually appealing way, following a certain hierarchy. Fluid grids scale depending on the size of the user’s screen and make sure that all page elements follow suit. Even though the use of grids has always been present in the design world when it comes to web design simple responsive grids were developed to aid designers and developers in website design. After those initial responsive grids, a variety of responsive CSS frameworks burst onto the scene, all of them basing their code on a fluid grid.

Responsive Grid

Nowadays, native grids have come to CSS in the form of “CSS Grid Layout Module”. Browser support is fairly solid now, offering huge possibilities to web designers wanting to explore fluid, responsive grids, without relying on frameworks.

2. Media Queries

Media queries have existed since the early 2000s, but it wasn’t until 2012 that they became a W3C recommended standard. Like fluid grids, media queries represent a cornerstone technology behind responsive web design. Thanks to media queries, a website can gather data that helps determine the size of the screen a visitor is using to access it. Once it has that information, it then conditionally loads CSS styles that are appropriate for that particular screen size.

3. Responsive Images and Media

Responsive web design works rather well when you work with nothing but text. However, modern websites include a lot of media such as images and videos, which can be somewhat tricky.

The proper way to deal with images and other media files is to use the max-width property instead of using the image or media file dimensions. An example looks like this:

If you want to include other media types, the approach to styling becomes a little more nuanced. The height property won’t work, so applying padding to the bottom of a container, then positioning the media within that container is the way to go. This approach (hack) was first suggested by Thierry Koblentz back in 2009, and is still the most robust way of doing things. 

Once you add this to your CSS code, all the images and media files will scale with your browser and won’t extend past their container.

Now that we’ve covered the core principles of responsive web design, let’s dive into the advantages it brings.

Advantages of Responsive Web Design

There are many responsive web design benefits. It can positively impact your SEO, conversion rates, user experience, and many other aspects of your business that contribute to your growth. Here are the 12 most important responsive web design features and benefits.

1. Improved User Experience

A responsive website leads to a better user experience. A major factor indicating the quality of user experience is the time they spend on your site. If they find it hard to navigate or use because they're forced to constantly pinch and zoom, they won’t stay on your website.

But if your website scales and responds to the change in screen size, then visitors won’t have problems accessing menus, links, buttons or filling out forms. As a result, their user experience will be better and they'll spend more time on your site.

Improved user experience and site usability can then lead to more word of mouth referrals and new customers for your business.

2. An Increase in Mobile Traffic

Statistics show that in the last quarter of 2017, nearly 52% of all global web traffic originated from mobile devices. That accounts for more than half of all Internet traffic and goes to show that you cannot afford to forego responsive web design. Start by investigating how many of your visitors come from mobile devices and the time they spend on your site. Then, implement responsive design and compare the two numbers. Once your website adapts to the viewport width, you’ll notice an increase in mobile visits and longer time on site by those same visitors.

3. Faster Website Development

Not so long ago, a common practice involved making a separate mobile version of your site that was served when a smaller screen size was detected. However, developing a mobile version of your site takes up more time than developing a responsive website that looks great and works as intended no matter which device your visitors are using. Another downside of a mobile website version is the fact that they cost more because your developer has to create two websites instead of one.

4. Easier Maintenance

Directly tied to the point above is easier website maintenance. With two versions of your website, your staff or your development team has to divide time and resources on managing two websites. With a responsive website, your staff can spend less time on maintenance tasks and focus on more important tasks such as marketing, A/B testing, customer service, product or content development, and more.   

5. No Duplicate Content Penalty

Another point to keep in mind with two versions of your website is the fact that you're essentially creating duplicate content. While search engines are getting smarter by the day, they still need to understand which website version is more important. If you’re using a mobile version of your site, your content remains the same even if the URL is different.

This can cause both versions of your website to have lower search engine rank because search engines won’t know which content is relevant. If you want both versions of your site to rank well, you would need to create two separate SEO strategies and campaigns and invest significantly more money in producing original and unique content for both desktop and mobile version of your site.

Since having two separate SEO strategies requires too much time and money, most website owners resort to using a canonical tag on their mobile website that points to the desktop version. As a result, most separate mobile websites aren’t ranked in search engines at all.

With a responsive website, all of the headaches above can be successfully avoided. If you had any doubts about responsive web design importance, this should help alleviate them.

6. Simpler Website Analytics

When you've got two distinct versions of your website, you need to keep track of two set of website analytics so you know where your visitors are coming from and how they interact with your content. This means you need to keep track of multiple signup and thank you pages, conversion points, funnels, and more.

With a responsive site, on the other hand, your website stats are greatly simplified as you’re staying on top of a single set of data. You can still get insight into which devices and browsers your visitors are using, where they drop off, and how long they spend on your site, but you won’t need to read data from multiple reports to get an accurate picture.

7. Better Website Loading Times

Websites that are responsive tend to load faster on all devices, but especially on smartphones and tablets. Thanks to responsive images and fluid grids, it takes significantly less time for a page to load, which has a direct impact on the duration of your user’s visit. According to research, 53% of mobile visitors will abandon a site if pages take longer than three seconds to load. The same research shows that websites that load fast benefit from more time spent on site as well as improved conversion rates. This speaks volumes about responsive web design importance.

8. Lower Bounce Rates

Bounce rate signifies the percentage of visitors to a particular website who navigate away from the site after seeing a single page only. As we’ve mentioned above, a responsive website means visitors will stay on your site longer which reduces your bounce rate. Visitors will be more inclined to click through and read other pages on your site and explore everything you've got to offer.

9. Higher Conversion Rates

More time on your site and lower bounce rate are good first steps to improving your visitor’s user experience and building trust. That improved user experience and trust lead to better conversion rates, whether conversion means signing up for your newsletter, making a purchase or booking a call. Consider for a moment that average smartphone conversion rates are up by 64% compared to desktop and it’s easy to see why a responsive website is a must.

10. Better SEO

Another one of the advantages of responsive web design is improved search engine rank. As of April 2015, Google takes into consideration the responsiveness of your website as one of the signals that determine the rank of your website in the search engine results page. If your website isn't responsive, the search engine giant will place it lower on the results page whereas it will show up higher if it passes the mobile-friendly test.

SEO improves
Another of the advantages of responsive web design is improved search engine rank. (Source: Envato Elements)

11. More Social Sharing

When done correctly, responsive web design can lead to an increase in social shares for your content. This is another one of the responsive web design benefits. Responsive content paired with responsive social media buttons make it easy to share links to your site’s pages even on smaller screens. This can help increase your credibility and expose you to a new audience, which then leads to more traffic and more conversions. At the same time, social signals can also impact your search engine rank indirectly because search engines will notice the increased engagement and search demand.

12. Better Backlinks

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that a responsive website can help you when it comes to building backlinks. Backlinks play an important role in any SEO strategy because they show search engines that other websites consider your site a reputable source of information. If your site isn’t responsive, other websites will be less inclined to link to you. After all, linking to a website that doesn’t provide good user experience makes them look bad as well.

Improve Your Bottom Line With a Responsive Website

As you can see, there are numerous responsive web design benefits for your business. If your website isn't yet responsive, planning a redesign and a new, fluid layout is a great first step. It will help you determine which page elements are most important, which pages can be eliminated, and how much copy you want to keep on your site.

Once you’re clear on the direction of your redesign, you can dive into choosing the right platform and the right theme or template for your site. You can then implement the tips outlined in this series of tutorials and improve your site’s conversion rate, engagement rate, SEO, and more.

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