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Over the last few years, one of the key questions to help determining whether a website was working properly for users was: “who is looking at your website”; however, “what are they using to browse the website” is becoming a more important question to ask. The root of this comes from the fact that we now have a wide array of Internet-connected devices that allow media consumption like never before. It has been estimated that by 2014 the number of users browsing the web using mobile devices will be higher than desktop users. So the question is this: is your website ready?
To have a website that works well on different devices, we first need to define what those devices are. The issue here is that there are dozens of available devices and they can also be used in different forms (portrait, landscape), which creates an equally large array of options. We also need to take into consideration specific interface components, such as Flash, and any other pieces that rely on specific technologies. When we do this, we arrive at two alternatives to create a mobile-friendly website:
- Develop a new version of the website specific to mobile users
- Use smarter code on your existing website for it to display properly on mobile devices
Initially, the first approach seems to solve the challenge quite easily; however, when we take a closer look, we find that this initiative usually requires more investment and can also introduce complexity, since there are now two different domains, hosting areas, and, ultimately, two separate (independent) websites.
The second approach is based on having one single website that adjusts the display and message, according to the device that is being used. In our industry, this has come to be known as the ‘responsive web.’ A responsive website allows the concentration of online marketing efforts and attention to one website only.
One of the most important factors to consider when deciding on a mobile-friendly website is to look at leaders, like Google, and see what their opinion is. Last week, Google released an article that provides guidance for building these types of websites. They considered different solutions and stated: “sites that use responsive web design, i.e. sites that serve all devices on the same set of URLs, with each URL serving the same HTML to all devices and using just CSS to change how the page is rendered on the device. This is Google’s recommended configuration.”
Creating responsive websites requires additional insight with regards to strategy, user experience, content management, design, and code development; however, especially with the recent support of Google, the responsive approach is a great investment that equips companies with a website that is ready to adapt to customer demands.