Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About Responsive Website Design for Your Business

posted this in
Web Design
on July 30th, 2013

Even though it’s been around now for over three years, the idea of responsive web design is still new to many businesses. And we get a lot of questions about it. So I (with a little help from our designers and developers) have put together a blog that answers all of your responsive website questions.

But if you have a question that’s not on here, contact us and let us know. I’d be happy to answer it.

What is a responsive website?

Responsive websites adapt to the screen size being used. Rather than having one website that looks best on desktop or multiple sites for different devices, a responsive website is one site that adapts (or responds) to different screen sizes.

For more on why this is important, check out Brad Frost’s This is the Web blog post.

Why should I consider a responsive website design for my business?

It’s no secret that web-capable mobile devices (tablets, smartphones and phablets) are becoming the norm. But redesigning an entire website can cost both time and money. So many companies and website owners have tried to reach these mobile website visitors by building separate mobile-only websites.

But there are some serious problems with this approach.

For one, it means maintaining and updating at least two separate sites – mobile and desktop – and not really accounting for the hundreds of other device sizes.

It also usually results in website visitors getting different content on desktop and mobile websites, which can be a frustrating experience because people expect to find the same information no matter what device they are on. (It’s a myth that mobile visitors are always “on the go”. See this article for more on mobile myths.)

Responsive web design was created to help businesses and website owners solve these and other problems.

Other benefits include:

  • Better for SEO (It’s at least encouraged by Google)
  • Easier for your customers
  • Easier to scale/add pages

Read more about the benefits of responsive design and why it will kill the “mobile web.”

Will a responsive website help or hurt my SEO?

Google has made it clear that a mobile-friendly site is best for your users. And they rank sites based on what’s best for users. So if you don’t have a mobile site at all, a responsive website will only help.

It should also help if you have a separate mobile website. As we pointed out earlier, Google encourages the use of a single domain (instead of m.sites or site.com/mobile.) Plus, with a responsive website, you’ll also likely have more content in a mobile-friendly format.

And quality content is the key to SEO.

Is responsive web design right for every business?

Probably not. While responsive web design is a better option than a separate mobile site for 99.9% of businesses, there may be situations where it isn’t the right solution. Or the cost may be prohibitive. In these cases, a separate mobile site may be better than no mobile presence at all.

Also, there are situations when it may be better to develop an iPhone or Android app for your business. It just depends on your goals and your audience.

Aren’t responsive websites slower?

Since the premise of responsive websites is that your “mobile” site and “desktop” site are essentially one in the same, this can be a real issue.

Mobile devices are connected to the internet using wireless cellular networks (which, let’s admit can often be shaky.) So it’s important to make sure that your responsive website is properly optimized for speed.

There are techniques that can be used to make sure that your responsive site is optimized for speed by not loading unneeded resources (images, code, etc.) when accessed from mobile devices.

Don’t mobile website visitors want different things than desktop visitors?

In the early days of web-enabled mobile devices and smartphones, it was assumed that because people were using the internet on their phones, they were “on the go” (e.g. in the car, walking down the sidewalk, eating out, etc.) Therefore, we reasoned, they were looking for different things (driving directions, nearby restaurants, etc.)

However, the data doesn’t support this hypothesis. Stats from Google show that only 17% of mobile searches happen while “on the go” while 77% happen while at home or at work.

Also, most website visitors (90% of them) start a task on one device and pick it up on another. (Karen McGrane has a great article on this called Windows on the Web.) If your website displays different content on different devices, you may end up frustrating your loyal visitors.

Can I convert my current website design to be responsive?

Yes and no. It’s complicated.

Basically, you can keep your current design, but it will most likely require a complete rewrite of the underlying structure of your web design. We cover this question in a little more detail on this blog.

How much does a responsive website redesign cost?

It depends. Pricing a website is like pricing a home – complicated.

Our custom, responsive websites with a new design typically cost $8-10,000 and up. But that price can vary a lot, depending on many factors. To give you a more accurate price, we need to know things like:

  • How big is your website?
  • Are you changing the design?
  • What functionality does it need (event calendar, shopping cart, photo gallery)?
  • Are we writing the content for you?
  • What’s your timeline?

Want more specifics? Contact us for a free estimate.

How long does it take to create a new responsive website?

Again, it depends on the project. A bigger project will obviously take longer. Also, a lot depends on how quickly you answer questions and give feedback on concepts, content and designs.

In our experience, the average responsive website takes 2-3 months. But we’ve had some that have taken much longer and others that were much shorter. Usually, if you have a specific target you’re trying to hit, we can help you work something out.

Can I see some examples of responsive web design?

Absolutely! There are lots of responsive websites out there and you’ve probably run across some without realizing it.

If you want to see how these sites (or your own) look at different screen sizes, just drag the corner of your browser. Or you can check out this link and put in the URL you want to test.

Examples of big companies with responsive websites:

Other responsive websites we think are cool:

Have more questions?

So there you have it - a list of everything you could possibly want to know about responsive web design (hopefully). Did I miss something? Let me know so I can answer your question and add it to the blog.