As the way we use the internet has evolved, the philosophy of most online businesses has become increasingly customer-centric. Brick and mortar businesses have always known that this is the secret to success – many of them have actual face-to-face relationships with their customers.
For too long many online businesses behaved as if they were pulling anonymous fish out of the ocean; if some got away there were always more fish in the sea. But social media and a more exact targeting of visitors have brought home to online businesses that there are actual faces behind their conversion numbers. In order to keep those people as customers, and prevent them from writing negative reviews, businesses have to engage with those people and their lives.
The customer should be at the center of everything a business does. Businesses should adapt to them and provide them with the best experience possible based on their preferences. Part of giving customers what they want involves adapting to their chosen devices. Responsive design, one of the year’s biggest trends, does just that.
Responsive design strives to provide an optimal online experience no matter what device visitors are using – desktop, laptop, tablet, or mobile phone. This involves resizing and redesigning the site to allow for easy reading and navigation and maybe even changing the content itself.
The most obvious aspect of responsive design is a changing the layout. A site without responsive design will look very tiny on the screen of a mobile phone. Not only will it be hard to read but it will be hard to tap on the screen without accidentally clicking something unintentional. It forces the reader to zoom in, which is just one more excuse for them to bounce.
When responsive design is implemented, the site’s pages will automatically adjust to fit the size of the screen they’re being viewed on. For example when viewed on a mobile phone, the screen may just be a single column of pictures and text. When viewed on larger screen such as a tablet or computer the layout becomes more complex, with multiple columns, sidebars, etc. At the very least these changes will help convince visitors to spend more time on and engage with the site, which will in turn improve SEO.
Many people implementing responsive design don’t realize that it is also an opportunity for content to change. Depending on the nature of the business, mobile users may be looking for different information than other users.
For example if the business has a brick and mortar location, mobile users may be more interested in hours, location, phone number, and other information that could help them visit the location in the immediate future. Desktop users may be more interested in general information: atmosphere, the selection of items, prices, or ratings and reviews.
Of course, this separation between mobile and computer doesn’t hold for every site, especially if that business doesn’t have a physical location. Also note that many people search on mobile when they also have access to a computer – think someone lounging on the couch with their smartphone or sneakily viewing their phone at work. In these cases the type of information they want will not be radically different from people searching on an actual computer.
Responsive design can provide customers with a radically better experience on a website, but even from this overview it’s clear that it isn’t just an issue for web designers or marketing. It requires everyone involved in the website to be committed to putting the individual customer and his needs and experience at the center of the business.