Over the course of the last several years, Watermelon Web Works has seen more of a focus on websites that look great on mobile devices and are easy to use. Responsive websites are important for many reasons:
- Google will penalize your website if it is not optimized for mobile, which will lower your search engine rankings.
- Users will be less likely to return to your website if they are unable to get to their intended target quickly.
- More users are accessing websites through mobile devices than desktops. In the United States mobile usage has increased to 51% compared to desktop usage which is at 42%.
What are the steps that I should take?
Responsive design may seem daunting at first, but there are several things that can be done to ensure that you do not face any penalties by Google or lose potential customers to your site.
Ask yourself these questions when accessing your website:
- Is it easy to navigate?
- Are the images easy to see?
- When you search for the business through a common engine (Google, Yahoo, etc.), does your business show up on the first page?
- Is the text readable?
- Are your pages loading in a timely matter?
- Are you quickly able to find your business information (contact info and directions to your business) and your products?
If you answered no to any of those questions, then it is best to contact a web design company that is highly experienced in working with responsive websites.
Using a Responsive Theme
Responsive websites respond to the user’s behavior and environment depending on orientation, screen size and the platform. Responsive websites uses flexible grids and layouts and media queries to target specific screen sizes, which allows for your website to adapt to any device (smart phones, iPads, laptops etc). This will provide a user friendly experience which is beneficial to your business. Most older websites are static themes and also go by the following names: stationary page/flat page. Since a static page has set sizes it will not change when viewed on mobile devices which causes responsive issues and is not user friendly. In many cases users are are going to have to zoom out in order to view a static website or will have to navigate to the left and right to view content. Images and videos on static websites may look great on desktops but can be difficult to view on mobile devices. Content such as text can be difficult to read due to the font size being too small to read by most users.
Responsive themes offers the following advantages over static websites:
- Hamburger menus – Hamburger menus offer several advantages over visible menus (although it does have drawbacks as well) on mobile devices. Hamburger menus are easily identifiable by a three vertical line icon which looks a lot like a hamburger. The hamburger menu scales better for mobile devices allowing for a cleaner look and feel for the website. It is a great alternative for websites with a lot of menu items which can become a hassle if you are using a visible menu.
- Faster page loading times.
- Easier navigation and management, which will be more beneficial than building continuously on an old theme. Users are quickly able to get around your website or can easily purchase products on a mobile device. Most responsive themes use templates which will allow for you to add slider images, content and products with ease without affecting your website and how it may look on mobile devices.
- Image and content optimization. Images and content will scale down according to your screen size and will be aligned properly, for example, centered on the page.
- Page layouts will be rendered properly for mobile device screen sizes. Most websites include sidebars, images, products, and content. By using a responsive theme, the layout is taken care of for you.
The first step to take is to switch your site over to a responsive theme. You can also install several plugins that will improve the user experience for your website.
There are many social sharing plugins that will bring added benefits to your site. Mobile users are more likely to share content across a variety of social media sites versus on their desktops. Plugins such as Shareaholic and Add-To-Any are both excellent plugins to use.
WPtouch is a great plugin that will enhance user experience and the overall look of your website. A plugin should never be a replacement for a responsive theme for a variety of reasons but it can work if you do not have the time or budget to switch to a responsive theme for older static websites.
It can also be used for responsive themes because of features that can be appealing to users such as custom menu icons, WPtouch can be enabled for specific devices and browsers and has the ability to auto-detect any language. The plugin includes Infinity Cache, which will increase the speed of your site while optimizing images. The premium version also gives you the ability to use specialized mobile templates because it detects the mobile device that is being used.
JetPack is a great plugin to use. It offers 33 specific features to improve your website. While it is a large package, it is worthwhile to check it out and see whether it will work to your advantage. Jetpack will give you visitor statistics through its centralized dashboard which can give you more insight on what to focus on and what viewers are interested in. In addition, it has tools that will increase user interaction such as Related Posts and Social Media sharing integrations. It also can help protect your website from invalid logins and attacks on your website. JetPack has a wide variety of other features which will increase the functionality of your website such as galleries, Custom CSS and Configurable Widgets.
Responsive design is very important for a successful website now that we all carry smart phones in our pockets and have instant access to the web. Not only will you avoid being penalized by Google and losing your search engine ranking but you are improving your user’s experience as well by meeting the growing needs of mobile users.