Mobile is Coming. The Case for Responsive Web Design

There, I said it. Mobile is coming. I’m to sure we needed Google to give us a drop dead date. And, I have an interesting theory on that anyway, but I’ll save that for another day. More to the point, I want to address a few things that need to be discussed when deciding how to handle this, and it’s mostly between a stand alone site and Responsive Web Design.

Most folks have seen a mobile website. I find them aggravating myself. It usually has a way for me to call the company, which of course I don’t want to do and why I’m looking it up online. And it has very limited options on what I’m looking for, and then it has that annoying button that says “click here for the full site.” As of right now, (March of 2015), that is a perfectly fine way to handle mobile, but I expect it to change.

Why Responsive Web Design?

The next way is responsive web design, which I am a big proponent of.  What I like most about it is that it’s all the same website rendering to fit the platform. Other than my obvious dislike of a stand alone mobile website, there is another whole reason I think it’s a bad way to go. For as long as I can remember it was taboo to server different versions of a website based on who was coming or who the user agent was. I cannot see Google long term allowing different results to be served to a user based on his user agent, or in layman terms, his device.

So although Google is saying this is okay now, I am already starting to see them hedge a bit saying that the mobile content has to match. It’s a bit impractical to assume your going to build hundreds of little tiny pages. Really its a logistical nightmare.

So now that I’m having to decide what to do with our older sites that need some help in this department, although it is tempting to stick a one page mobile site up there, long term I don’t see that as a viable option. The newer crop of sites we have already built with responsive web design, and we are pointing everyone in this direction. Sure there are few out there that still have mobile sites, but I’m trying to wind that down. And while I am on the legacy discussion, FrontPage needs to go. I have been working with our hosting customers to get them into a WordPress install because at least there, the sites are fixable.

What is nice about responsive web design is that I can make the website work on whatever device I’m using. So from a user experience level, I think there are a lot of benefits. Now I will say a stock responsive template you may need to think about is the order things appear on the screen to aid with conversion, being this is now a metric of success. So I do still see some peril if you don’t understand fully but as the user gets more sophisticated, so will your ability to market to them.

As I tell my classes, don’t do something just because Google says it. Let’s think about what they are saying and then figure out how to best implement it. So when I sit down and think why are they doing this and what do they hope to accomplish, I also have to look down the road and see that responsive web design makes sense because it servers the same content 100 percent of the time. I think that as we do all the other things we recommend, that deciding to put a website into a responsive framework will make long term sense so you don’t have to touch this a second or third time as this evolves.  Just remember to order the page so that it best suits your end user’s needs.

Lastly, remember this is evolving. And as for now no one knows for sure what the outflow of Google and their Mobile changes are going to be. So do what’s best for you business, and in the end it often works out fine. It’s when you try to game a system that you get in big trouble.

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