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The Rise of Mobile and Responsive Web Design

Consider this scenario: You are browsing the web, searching for something on your mobile phone and you find 2 different sites that look promising so you load them.

The first has small unreadable text because your phone is trying to show you the entire web page. You try zooming and navigating but it's difficult because you constantly have to re-position the screen to see what you want, scrolling in all directions. And it's difficult to click the item you want without clicking on something else by mistake.

Switching to the second site, the text is all nicely sized and comfortable to read. The navigation is clear and easy to access. To read the content you just need to scroll down the page, no need to zoom in or hunt around for what you want.

Its clear that the second site has been designed to work on a mobile phone whereas the first is just the same old website you'd see on a desktop PC. And whilst some people might persevere with the first site, more and more users will opt for the easy to use mobile site in preference – they just want a site that works without any fuss or effort.

Mobile device usage

Browsing the internet using a mobile phone has been a possibility for almost the past 20 years but's it's only really taken off with the advent of the Smart phone. The iPhone led the way 8 years ago, followed a few years later by the iPad which really kick started the tablet market too, but it's only in the past 3 or so years that mobile web browsing has taken off in a big way.

Whilst surveys from 2015 show that 91% of those asked use a PC or laptop to surf the net, 80% will also at some point use a Smartphone and 47% a tablet. Since summer 2012, mobile and tablet web use has more than doubled, from around 18% of all web traffic to 38%.

*data from statcounter.com

Whilst exactly how much web traffic will come from users with mobile devices will vary depending on country, target audience and business sector, one thing everyone generally agrees on is that the percentage of mobile traffic is increasing – in general more and more users will be viewing your website on a mobile device than ever before.

This is something that hasn't gone unnoticed by internet giant Google and from April 21st, Google have been giving higher rankings to pages that are mobile friendly when searched for using a mobile device. That is to say, if your website is NOT built to work on a mobile browser, when someone searches for it using a mobile device, it may be given a lower ranking than a similar site that is mobile friendly.

Types of Web Design

There are three different ways to build websites so they work well on mobile devices:

  • Responsive Design

    This is the method that Google generally recommends (and the one we use when building sites at Connexion). The user is sent exactly the same web page regardless of what device they are using to view it, but the display of that page “responds” to the users device based on the screen size and shape so it appears different depending on the device being used.

  • Serve Dynamic pages

    For this method, the web site senses what device the user is using then sends a slightly different page to the user that is designed to work best with their screen. Whilst this can work well, it can also be a lot of work to create and maintain.

  • Separate URL

    Finally, this method detects when a user is using a mobile device but sends the user off to a totally separate mobile site with a different address. This mobile site may only be a cut down version of the main site and may not have all the same content.

    This method allows you to customise each site to work well on each type of device, but it does also mean that to do things well you may need several such sites to target different devices and each will need maintaining separately.

Other web browsers

Of course, it's not all just about mobile smart phones either. Tablets, whilst they can be considered as mobile devices, also generally have larger screens. Web browsers on games consoles such as Xbox, Playstation and Wii are also becoming more popular. And Smart TVs can also have their own browser. All of these devices have different screen sizes, resolutions, orientation and ways to interact with them, so all offer a slightly different browsing experience.

And thus web designers should consider how to make a site work best across all these devices. Of course, it's not possible to get it perfect all the time and sometimes compromises might have to be made.

Updating Your Website

At Connexion, all the new websites we build are built using Responsive Design to make sure they work on the widest range of devices as possible. But we also get requests to see how we can help with existing sites that were built a number of years ago, before site compatibility across multiple devices was ever a real consideration.

Sometimes it is possible to take an existing design and, with some minor updates to the look and feel create something that looks very similar but now works well for mobile phones, tablets etc., although behind the scenes the entire site will likely need a sizable overhaul too.

Another consideration is that web design trends can change quite quickly and some sites built only 3 or 4 years ago can already look a bit dated. In these cases it can be a good excuse to go back and give the entire site a whole new look and feel whilst also using responsive design to allow it to work seamlessly across all devices.

Stephen has worked at Connexion for the past 8 years including work on various Kentico content manged websites and eCommerce solutions for clients in Reading and Berkshire.

Posted: Monday 29 June 2015 15:44:25 by Stephen Joyes with 0 comments
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