In October 2016, mobile devices had, for the first time, surpassed desktops as the primary medium of global Internet traffic. Since then, mobile ownership and Internet usage have kept growing hand in hand, thanks to their affordability and accessibility.
Today, more than five years later, mobile devices are at their all-time high, accounting for over 55% of total web traffic, with 4.28 billion unique Internet users worldwide, and projected sales at $3.56 trillion by the end of 2021.
As mobile devices became an essential and indispensable element of the Internet experience, Google ensured their search ranking updates followed suit.
With the continual permeation of online browsing, shopping, communication, and entertainment, having a responsive design shifted from a recommendation to a must.
Users and Google alike will favour sites that create a seamless, fast, and safe Internet experience – across different devices and screen sizes.
In this article, web experts from a top website development company in New York shed light on the importance of responsive design for your online success.
What is Responsive Design?
Responsive web design is a design approach to website planning and creating a website that responds and adapts to different screen sizes, platforms, and orientations of the devices that users use to view a website.
The idea behind a responsive design is that when a user switches from their laptop to mobile, the site’s design automatically adjusts from one display size to another.
In practice, a responsive design means creating a website with multiple columns for wider displays, whereas for smaller screens the same content is presented in a single column.
So a responsive design adapts to accommodate the screen resolution without the need to pinch and zoom, move left or right, or zoom out the content.
The hype surrounding the benefits of mobile devices to online business success is real. Just think of Android smartphones and iPhones with completely different viewport dimensions, laptops and desktops of various screen ratios, and tablets and smart TVs that create new pathways to go online.
And while traffic and revenue possibilities offered by mobiles are the main reason to go responsive, mobile devices aren’t the only ones to design for.
What’s Google’s Take on Responsive Web Design?
In its efforts to remain the leading global search engine, Google’s ranking updates are all about ensuring the best possible user experience when online.
Let’s say Google serves a user a web page that isn’t accessible or is hard to interact with on mobile. The first time, the user will probably abandon the unfriendly website and search for a more accessible one. But, if Google’s poor suggestions keep bouncing back, the user will probably look for a different search engine rather than a website.
As practically half of Google’s users come from mobiles, it’s only natural that the search engine will favour the websites that are accessible, beautiful and functional when visited from mobile devices.
Google’s Mobile-Friendly Update
Back in 2015, Google rolled out its mobile-friendly update, thus boosting the rankings of mobile-friendly websites on mobile search results.
The algorithm update aimed to favour web pages where users can access content without tapping, zooming or horizontal scrolling and where buttons are spaced appropriately.
Known among the web community as the Mobilegeddon, this search ranking update caused a noted 21% decrease in non-mobile-friendly URLs on the first three pages of Google’s search results.
And while there are algorithm updates that focus specifically on the issue of accessibility via mobiles, mobile-friendliness is only an element of the entire web page experience Google values when ranking sites.
Cross-device accessibility isn’t just about passing the mobile-friendliness test anymore; it’s about creating seamless UX from wherever users land on your website. So, how else can a responsive design help your website’s reputation with Google?
Core Web Vitals & Responsive Design
Core Web Vitals is a set of metrics that evaluate the user experience on a website by looking at the site’s loading, interactivity, and visual stability.
Rolled out in the summer of 2021, the three Core Web Vitals metrics – LCP, FID, and CLS – focus exclusively on on-page experience:
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) denotes the time a website needs to display the complete above-the-fold content on the screen, ready for user interaction.
- First Input Delay (FID) measures interactivity, i.e., the time between a user’s first interaction with a website to when the browser responds to that interaction.
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) estimates the visual stability by looking at the layout shifts that take place within the viewport and aren’t caused by user behaviour.
As you can see, responsive design is an important element of all the Core Web Vitals metrics. Web design that fits the required screen size will load fast enough to yield good LCP results and ensure instant content interaction for satisfactory FID.
Regarding CLS, responsive design will minimize layout shifts as page elements load exactly where they should.
User Experience & Website Responsiveness
User experience’s importance as a ranking factor on search engines equals its elusiveness regarding what this notion actually entails.
Quality and valuable content, fast-loading pages, intuitive site structure, accessibility across devices are some of the basic UX elements – but how does Google measure these elements of a quality user experience?
Well, Google (and other search engines) assesses a website’s UX based on user behaviour metrics, such as:
- Bounce rate
- Scroll depth
- Time on page
- Pages per session
- Session length
Besides making your website accessible via different devices, employing responsive design practices into your site helps user retention and conversion.
Namely, 2021 data suggests that over 50% of users feel encouraged to engage with a website with a good mobile design, whereas two-thirds reported they are more likely to purchase a mobile-friendly design.
Moreover, a good site experience boosts the chances of a user recommending the website to a friend and subsequently returning to visit it again.
So, responsive design is actually a far more intricate component of a good user experience.
On the surface, users understand when they interact with a mobile-friendly design; yet, intuitively, cross-device accessibility encourages them to spend more time on the website, trust it, enjoy its content, and ultimately, convert into happy customers.
Brand Equity & Responsive Web Design
According to research, 6 out of 10 users noted having a more favourable opinion of a brand if they have a responsive website design.
Moreover, 48% of users regard website design as the primary factor when judging a business’s credibility, with 38% of visitors saying they will stop browsing a website if the layout is unattractive.
Providing users with a seamless, consistent experience across devices supports your brand image and facilitates users’ satisfaction throughout their journey with a business.
As many conversion journeys take place across devices, your website needs to be ready to satisfy users who visit it on a tablet, continue their research via smartphone, and finally purchase from a desktop.
Marketing, Optimization & Responsive Website Design
Creating a responsive website design can help minimize the time and money investments into your website’s digital marketing and search engine optimization efforts.
For example, a high-quality responsive website is a great foundation for your SEO, leaving you with only details to tweak.
Moreover, good user metrics – made possible by responsive design, of course – help Google perceive your site as high-quality and thus improve your rankings organically, lowering the marketing costs.
For example, when marketing via Google Ads, the search engine’s algorithm accounts for different metrics to measure your cost per click.
Besides ad copy and visuals, landing page content, and page loading speed, responsive design is among the crucial aspects that influence your ad costs.
With the rise of mobiles, online searches for local businesses have grown quite popular. Having a mobile-friendly design helps your site rank higher for mobile searches, meaning you’re more likely to appear to users who need your products/services at that very moment.
To Wrap Up
In times when more than half of Internet users access digital content from the convenience of their mobiles, creating a mobile-friendly website is a no-brainer.
However, with tablets growing more popular than ever, smart TVs reshaping the way we consume online content, and laptops becoming the new (home) office standard, responsive design permeates more than just designing for mobiles.
A method of bypassing the need for responsiveness is creating multiple versions of the same website for different devices. However, with separate desktop and mobile websites, you risk being flagged by Google as having duplicate content, thus compromising your entire efforts and business.
Responsive websites are free from such hassles – they are easy to build, ensure a great user experience and good search engine rankings, and are future-proof.
There is a reason why responsive web design has become a necessity, not a luxury. Responsiveness is synonymous with versatility and a smooth user experience – and you’ll want your business to leverage that.
Christopher is a digital marketing specialist, project manager and editor at Find Digital Agency and a passionate blogger. He is a dedicated and experienced author who pays particular attention to quality research and details. Focused on new web tech trends and digital voice distribution across different channels, he starts the day scrolling his digest on new digital trends while sipping a cup of coffee. In his free time, Christopher plays drums and Magic: the Gathering.