Responsive web design makes me weirdly happy. When I was learning the basics of responsive design in school, I would sit at my computer with the website that I was building open, and just continuously resize my browser while going “whoosh, whoosh, whoosh,” for like, way too long to be remotely acceptable. Actually, I still do that whenever I find a responsive website. I don’t know how people put up with me.
But aside from my weird obsessions, there are big-time SEO benefits to switching to responsive design. However, like anything, there are serious drawbacks to implementing a responsive website without properly planning it out. We’re going to cover both sides.
Responsive Web Design Also Makes Google Happy
First of all, Google straight-up recommends a responsive website. And it makes sense why! Despite being sexy (we all know Google loves sexy), a responsive website will help your mobile SEO efforts by:
Eliminating Indexed Duplicate Content: First, instead of having a regular website specifically for desktop and a mobile site with the “m.” prefix, you just have one neat and tidy website that scales all the way down to mobile size. While Google says that it won’t penalize you for having a mobile site and a desktop site, you’re still are indexing duplicate content with them. Do you really want to risk it?
Improving Link Profiles: Responsive design is also important for link building. Mobile sites and desktop sites index separately, but usually, mobile sites receive much less link juice, which can hurt their mobile rankings. Plus, it’s a terrible thing when I happily and blindly click on a link on Twitter or Facebook on my desktop only to find out that person shared the link from their phone, which leads me to a really blown out, awkward mobile site.
Improving Usability: This is the main reason Google loves them some responsive web. There are lots of screens that content can be viewed on, which means lots of screens to target your website for! Responsive design is compatible with all users, and when done well, is optimized for each screen under the umbrella of one design. Whether you’re reading a site on your iPhone, or a super villain projecting it on the moon, it will be equally pretty and useable on all platforms.
Reducing Management Issues: Maintaining a website is hard. You know what’s harder? Managing two websites. That’s like, at least twice as much work! If you’re spending your SEO efforts managing two websites that index separately in search engines, then you’re probably only managing each half as well. With a responsive website, you can focus on making one website awesome instead of making two websites “just alright.”
And it’s not just Google that loves responsive sites. You, as a business owner, should too! A recent study shows that almost two-thirds of mobile users are ready to convert in to sales! If you’re hesitant to invest in a responsive website, you’re basically leaving money on the table.
So, bust out those @media queries and get to responsive designin’, right? Not so fast, my friend! There are some downsides to this whole responsive design thing.
You Used to Be So Responsive, But Now You Just Leave Me Cold
Unfortunately, rocking the responsive takes a lot thought. You can’t just throw your website in a responsive-friendly framework and go “Yeah, this is pretty good. Let’s move on forever.” It won’t work out. I promise. You have to understand your users’ tendencies, and plan out the implementation of your new shiny responsive site.
Users expect different things from content on different devices, and you have to account with that in your design. This requires revisiting your information architecture and understanding your users. This isn’t impossible, but it does require planning and strategy.
Even big-time companies whiff on this. When Disney launched their responsive site back in 2012, they failed to optimize their games for smart phones despite leaving them in a prominent position on their mobile-sized site. This left a lot of dead-weight pages that only frustrated users.
Remember: usability is really important to responsive design. If you whiff on it, your investment in responsive design isn’t going to work out. Always keep your user first.
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