How responsive is your site?

As anyone using technology knows, about six months after a device hits the market, it is overshadowed by an upgrade if not rendered totally obsolete.

Websites are no different. Things change all the time, driven by the large companies like Microsoft and Google but also by innovative small companies who edge their way into the market.

While some changes are easy to notice, such as new browser versions, something people often overlook when creating websites are mobile device visitors. The number one failure I see among business owners is that their site doesn't cater to mobile devices.

This means a visitor on a smartphone, for example, must scale the screen up manually, slide from side to side, and hunt around to find what they were looking for. Even worse is when they try to click on a new webpage; the navigation bar may not respond at all.

The longer the visitor fumbles around, the more frustrating it becomes, and the more likely it is that they will leave in search of a mobile-friendly competitor.

In 2014, while PC sales stayed pretty much level, tablet and smartphone sales continued to increase thanks to cheaper, faster, and just generally more convenient devices. With such a vast percentage of mobile device users, a site now needs to display effectively across hundreds of different devices and create a seamless user experience. For your site to turn a visitor into a customer, it has to detect and respond to whatever device the visitor uses.

Until recently, companies had separate versions of their sites. Complicated systems identified the visitor's device and directed them to the appropriate version. While this was fine for smartphones, tablets are more of a challenge with different screen sizes. Something else that web designers had to battle was trouble with Search Engine Optimization: since a site had duplicate versions with the same information, it was laborious work to make sure search engines scanned each version correctly. If the mobile version of a site became more popular, the search engine would defer to that version even for PC visitors, or vise versa.

Because mobile devices are so popular, each with different screen sizes, it is no longer simply a case of PCs vs smartphones. It has become much more difficult to target all possible devices. This is where responsive development comes in.

A responsive web site is just as it implies - responsive. The content, images, and structure of the site adapt to the screen size of each unique device. This means the site will look attractive on any device, and as viewing space changes, the page structure changes to fit the new available space.

With responsive development, there is no need to have duplicate versions of a site. When a visitor enters, their device screen size is detected, and the perfect layout is selected automatically.

Because responsive sites have only one URL regardless of which device the visitor uses, it is not only easier for visitors but far more efficient for search engines to scan and organize.

A site needs to display effectively across
hundreds of different devices and create a
seamless user experience. For your site to turn
a visitor into a customer, it has to detect and
respond to whatever device the visitor uses.

Furthermore, when it comes to search engine rankings, a responsive website is now recommended by Google as an industry best SEO practice.

Because there is only one site to focus on, it is also less expensive from a cost perspective; you don't have to pay for duplicate sites and won't have to make changes potentially in multiple places. Another consideration is that with new devices flooding into the market almost daily, responsive sites must cater to new devices as they come out. Without constant maintenance, a separate mobile site may not be able to keep up with the possibly thousands of new devices and screens in six months' time.

Of course the biggest advantage to having a responsive website is that only a small percentage of sites currently use the technology.

Because of Google's recommendations, it is predicted that most websites will need to be responsive by summer 2015. By making your site responsive, you can stay ahead of your competitors who have not yet invested in, or are unaware of, this technology.

If you have concerns with your web presence reaching your widest customer base, 2015 is the perfect time to look into our WebUpdate system sites, which take advantage of advanced SEO, social, and responsive features to give your business the best competitive edge online.

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