The Importance of Responsive Design for New Websites

03/17/2015 04:27 pm ET | Updated May 17, 2015

The days of purchasing a domain, finding a host, and slapping on some content are over. Everyone uses the internet, but not everyone accesses websites using the same methods. For business owners, avid bloggers, and others dependent on web traffic, responsive design is increasingly important. Customers want to visit a website and experience a page that appears to speak directly to their needs. And nothing says "we don't want your business" like an improperly configured webpage.

Responsive Design: Why You Need It

In early 2014, the number of mobile users accessing the internet surpassed the number of desktop users. What is different about tablets and mobile devices is the variety in screen sizes. Websites can no longer be designed with a fixed number of pixels. Even gaming consoles, e-readers, and web terminals can now surf websites.

Interacting with websites using a touch screen is often extremely clumsy. Usually, just to scroll and see what you want, you need to resize the page several times. Websites not optimized to vary screen size and content means scrolling in two directions to read a few sentences. Smaller devices also experience long loading times to access all of the content and images. These images often are ridiculous in size.

The Responsive Approach

One of the best ways to reach your customers and show them you care is by redesigning your site using responsive web design. Responsive web pages automatically adjust themselves to any screen size and reorder content based on the device. Smaller devices need to reload just as quickly using weaker processing power with a wireless connection as desktop powerhouses with land lines.

Content often needs to be rewritten, too. For smaller devices you want concise, easy to understand text. Images should be smaller in size. Responsive design is about enhancing the users' experience by anticipating their needs. For instance, by providing the most relevant links on your mobile landing pages, you reduce the need for typing in text boxes, a strenuous activity that is difficult on some devices.

Matthew Kane of says that, "the trick is to find workarounds that benefit users." To make its site mobile-friendly, products were split into different categories. Each category expanded into a series of links based on the most commonly-sought products to save data and simultaneously direct users.

Here are some tips for bringing your website up to date:

• Think of mobile users first. As more people now use mobile devices, you want to use mobile design as your ground zero. By designing for tiny touchscreens, you'll focus on the most relevant content first. The chances of the information being optimized for any device drastically increases, as scaling up is easier than trying to remove content you've deemed critical.

• Think ahead. By looking from the customers' point of view, you can better tailor your content. What products and services are web users typically looking for when they visit your landing pages? What contact information will they desire? Do customers often make appointments or request at-home services? Never apply images or content that serve as obstacles to your CTA.

• Scale up appropriately. When moving from content for phones versus larger tablets, it makes sense to add content without compromising speed. iPads are perfect for testimonials, special event flyers, and longer blog posts. With desktop computers, you can begin adding Adobe Flash content, video segments, and advanced plug-ins. More pages can also be added, since searching becomes far easier. Your company's history and manufacturer information are prime examples.

Optimizing the User Experience

Bringing the best to customers is partially due to experience and market expertise, but there will always be a percentage that relies on trial and error. It is imperative that your company installs analytic tools to monitor how the different device content performs. Google Analytics tools provide extensive reports that give information on:

• How many people visit your site
• Where they live
• Their interests
• Demographics on age, gender, and race
• The keywords that led users to your site
• Which landing page they loaded
• What kind of device they are using
• What content they accessed
• How long they spent perusing your website
• And more

This information is invaluable and can be used to optimize content. For instance, Analytics lets you track what web users type into your search boxes. If a large number of customers are turning up the exact same search, your company will want to consider adding a direct link on the landing page.

Another possibility is that your webpage retention time is far above average when compared to your competitors, but your webpage hits are fairly low. This is an indication that the information is more or less what your demographic wants to read, but your SEO needs to be improved to reach more people.

If you are launching your website for the first time and beginning with mobile, Scott Baxter, Founder of PlayYourCourt suggests you use these two tried and true methods to judge content that is relevant to users:

1) Google Experiments. This tool allows you to launch several landing pages or other pieces of content simultaneously, and then randomize who visits each page. The Experiments tool will provide data on user retention time and customer responsiveness. After collecting enough data, you can tweak your website to provide the most relevant content.

2) Scale up slowly. After launching, the most important content for the desktop webpage is already completed. You can add extra content and see how it affects traffic. If a page added for frills fails to deliver, it can be cut.

After you launch your responsive site, adapting to future changes is much simpler. Cameras powered by Android recently became popular. These cameras have web capability. More products like these continually swell the market on a monthly basis. Yet with your new website, all you will need to do is make minor tweaks.