There has been a lot of chatter in the web design world recently about something called Responsive/adaptive web design. I have merged these two somewhat distinct methods into one, just briefly, to answer the question as to whether you “need this” or not. I’ll get to the differences in a little bit.
To put it most simply, both of these methodologies do something to make your web site easier to read and easier to navigate on a mobile or handheld device. In other words, these techniques provide a variation on the layout of your web site designed to make them look better on the smaller screen on these smaller devices.
To answer the question – Do I need this? – The answer is a qualified, maybe!
Depending on what statistical research study you read, anywhere from 40 to 60% of all traffic on the web is coming through smaller devices; and the number is climbing. People are in love with their smartphones and tablets and use them everywhere for everything. The question remains, are all these smartphone/tablet loving folks regularly visiting YOUR web site, and what kind of experience are they having once they get there? Basically there are two things you will need to determine to answer the question (do I need this?). First, what does my website look like on a mobile/handheld device? And second, are visitors to my site using mobile/handheld devices?
The first question is the easier to determine. If you don’t have a smartphone or tablet (that would make you a rather unique individual these days) you can borrow one from a friend or take a trip to the local electronics store and play with one of these devices they have on display. You might be surprised to find your website looks just fine on the mobile device. If your web site happens to be posted on a WordPress installation and you are using one of the default themes, you might find you already have a responsive/adaptive site! But you might also find that you need a magnifying glass to view anything on your site! In this case, we need to answer the second question.
The most efficient way to find out who is visiting your website, and what kind of device they are using, is to check your analytics and log files. If you are a jebswebs customer and agreed to add Google Analytics (GA) to your site, you can easily get this information from your GA account. A quick check of my GA account for this blog shows that in the past month just under 12% of my visitors were using mobile/tablet devices. Further analysis showed no difference in bounce rate between the two. Oh, and yes, I have an adaptive/responsive theme for this blog. I should also note that this percentage has grown dramatically in the past 2-3 years.
To answer the question for my own site, I think the answer is yes, I need an adaptive/response design for my site. Would I mind if 12% of my visitors were having a bad experience with my website? You bet I would mind.
But if the number of mobile users were small, say, under 3%, maybe I would not care so much, particularly if it was going to cost me a lot to upgrade the website.
There are definitely more things to be considered in answering this question. If your website is just a personal blog or a place to show off pictures of your grandchildren, to probably doesn’t matter. But if your site is related to e-commerce and you are making your living through it…then most definitely, any percentage of lost business is a problem.
Regarding the differences between Adaptive and Responsive Design, and which one is better, I have provided some excellent resources below where the authors have done a great job explaining things.
I will also leave the discussion as to which is the preferred method to others to debate. Suffice it to say, there are a lot of opinions out there. If you want to discuss what’s best for you, give me a shout!
Resources about Responsive and Adaptive Web Design
- What is the difference between responsive vs. adaptive web design? – Ryan Boudreaux, Tech Republic
- Responsive vs. Adaptive Design: Which Is Best for Publishers? – Garrett Goodman, Huff Post
- Is It Adaptive or Responsive Web Design? – Amber Weinberg
- What’s the difference between adaptive and responsive web design? – Janine Warner, Digital Family
- 5 Reasons Why Responsive Design is Wrong for Your Business – Rich Brooks, New Flyte Media
Photo credit: Image licensed under Creative Commons by Muhammad Rafizeldi