Responsive Web Design and Mobile First Indexed Websites

responsive web design responsive web design

Responsive Web Design and Mobile First Indexed Websites

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August Ash

August Ash builds custom mobile responsive websites for SMBs. With Google's switch to mobile first indexing, we optimize every website we build for mobile first indexing. Here's why a responsive design is best for most companies.

As experts in the industry, we can assure you that designing a website that generates search results can be extremely challenging. Not only do you need your design to be eye-catching and the content to be enticing and informative, but there’s also the need to appease Google’s algorithms.

Beyond forking out hundreds of thousands of dollars on paid campaigns that might yield zero in the way of results, appearing on Google’s first page necessitates catering to those algorithmic inclinations.

Doing so requires a keen understanding and practical skillset to check those various tick-boxes that have your website ranking high on Google’s search results pages. And you’ll find, for the most part, that the world’s preeminent search engine has a firm grasp on what kind of websites offer the most optimal user experience.

Google places the user experience at the height of its priorities. That’s the primary reason why the search engine recently launched its mobile-first initiative.

Specifically, as of December 2018, the majority of Google pages being displayed in global search results were a result of mobile-first indexing. Then, in January 2019, Google declared that mobile-first indexing had been enabled for all new websites.

But what does that all really mean?

Let’s take a closer look into what these changes from Google mean for consumers, businesses, and website design, respectively:

Mobile-First Indexing: Understanding the User Experience

With mobile-first indexing, Google’s various indexing mechanisms generate search results based on how optimized a website is for mobile devices.

Mobile-first indexing has lessened the impact of desktop and laptop optimization. Google’s crawlers are directed towards the mobile version of any given web page.

The fact is, more people are browsing websites and making purchases on mobile devices than ever. Almost all target markets always have their phones nearby. Therefore, they’re likelier to visit your website on their phone than they are on their desktop or laptop.

Google, intent on maintaining its conquering grasp on the search engine industry, wants to meet the needs of every user. It understands that audiences find browsing online on their mobile devices to be the most convenient form of web activity. This is especially the case given the array of apps and other mobile-friendly digital tools seemingly meant to put everybody’s lives on cellular phones.

From banking and accounting to scheduling, people have everything they need on their mobile devices. And yes, online mobile browsing has been around in some shape or form for the past decade or two.

Yet, it’s not guaranteed that a website has been designed with mobile in mind. It makes sense in its way. When someone designs a website, it’s done via laptop or desktop—so it’s something that could quickly become an oversight.

Still, as indicated by Google’s decision to move in a mobile-inclined direction, failing to design your website for mobile is failing to meet your audience where they are.

As such, website creators have begun relying on two methods of design that cater to this algorithmic bias: mobile-first design and mobile responsive design.

Before examining both styles a bit further, we can preface the difference with a brief synopsis. Mobile-first design is an overall strategy, while responsive design focuses far more on technical aspects.

Below, we’ll discuss these two design philosophies:

The Difference Between the Mobile and Desktop Experience

It’s necessary first to explain a couple of scenarios that deviate between the mobile and desktop user experience.

Mouse Versus Touch:

  • The user typically has a mouse on a desktop for navigating and selecting items
  • Conversely, users need to utilize their fingers to touch the screen of a smartphone or tablet
  • Clicking with a mouse is a lot different than selecting something with the touch of a finger, presenting challenges for the user if not accounted for in the mobile design

Download Speeds and Graphics:

  • Fewer graphics are a necessity for mobile devices—otherwise, it’ll take too long for the website to load 
  • Also, smaller ads should be chosen over larger ads for the same reason

As a website owner, you need to view things through the eyes, ears, and fingers of your audience. While it’s crucial to have eye-catching designs and well-written copy, it’s just as critical for the practical, working facets of your B2B website clicking on all cylinders.

For instance, 47% of visitors expect a website to take less than 2 seconds to load. Also, 40% of visitors will leave a website if the loading process lasts over 3 seconds. So, sorting out issues with graphics and speed on your mobile devices is non-negotiable. 

Mobile-First Design: A Philosophy that Prioritizes Hand-Held Devices

Before explaining the inner workings of mobile-first design, we’ll take a look at the pitfalls of a desktop-first approach.

It’s not that the runners of these websites don’t understand the need for an (at the very least) passable mobile layout.

After all, with the success of mobile platforms spiking profits 1700% from 2011-2015, it’s apparent that mobile is the direction to go.

Unfortunately, a mistake that’s commonly made is that websites are modified for mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones. As opposed to designing the integral framework of the site with mobile in mind, it’s a secondary tick-box.

Such a strategy just isn’t going to do the trick. When these modifications are made, designers scale down the website—which is known as graceful degradation. The cruel reality is as much as page owners don’t want to overhaul their desktop-first strategy, the pages can’t adapt to mobile layouts. Therefore, the overall browsing experience is ruined.

Anyone in digital marketing knows a poor experience on your website generally costs you customers and sullies your brand image.

So, in direct response to the negatives of graceful degradation, top-tier designers began progressively enhancing websites for mobile. 

In a nutshell, progressive enhancement – or mobile-first design – necessitates the designing of a website, primarily, for the smallest device possible. From there, it’s a matter of adapting and scaling upwards to desktop computers. 

A mobile-first philosophy, first and foremost, weighs the array of limitations and behaviors that exist on hand-held devices. 

Many digital marketers, when applying a mobile-first strategy, will arrange content according to its level of importance. Based on those choices, these digital marketers can refine the design.

Though it’s worth pondering whether this technique discounts the desktop experience a little too much. It’s not like online audiences have stopped using desktops and laptops. Plus, as a B2B organization, much of your target market will peruse your products while browsing their work computers.

Always remember that the desktop experience is still a critical part of your strategy. It’s just slightly less critical than it used to be in today’s online climate.

With that in mind, the idea of designing several websites for differing platforms does seem rather cumbersome.

Surely, it would make far more sense if it were possible to design a website that adapted to mobile platforms, desktops, and laptops alike.  

Well, there is a style that definitely does its best to weigh the various nuances, dimensions, and intricacies of each platform. It’s known as responsive design.

Responsive Design: A One Design Fits All Approach

When a responsive approach is applied, the website design adjusts according to the size of a users’ screen.  

If you want to determine the responsiveness of a website, manually zoom in and out of the browser window. 

You’re able to seamlessly browse a website, no matter the device with responsive design. With this technical approach, businesses – such as yours – only require one site. The entirety of both website content and user interface adapt based on the browser and device. It’s executed through the masterful interweaving of flexible grids and layouts, images, and intelligent use of CSS media queries.

Page elements, instead of being sized by pixels, are sized by proportion. Allow us to give you a better idea of what we’re saying: 

Imagine that a page has three columns, responsive designs work by how wide each column should be in relation to the other columns. Exact measurements wouldn’t be of any consequence. So, half the page will be taken up by column 1, while column 2 covers up 30%. From there, column 3 accounts for 20%.

Furthermore, images (and similar media) resize relatively. Each one can stay within its column or relative design element.

It’s the fluidity of a responsive website’s grids that allows for this kind of versatility.

As such, the process of designing a website is far more convenient because there’s only one set of specifications to follow. 

Responsive Design Gives B2B Owners the Best of Both Worlds

While responsive design is mobile-first in nature, it’s an approach that’s still aware of the value of desktop layouts. 

Meaning, by utilizing this method, your business will produce one consistent content-rich website that’s fit for all platforms. There’s no sacrificing of overall quality. And with Google’s mobile-first index taking over the digital space, there’s no other option other than designing your website with smartphones and tablets at your strategic forefront.

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