What is responsive design?

In the past, when everyone accessed the Internet from their computers, websites used to be designed based on fixed pixel widths. Today, however, the majority of Internet users access the web via their smartphone. This means that the design conventions of yesteryear are no longer suited for the tiny screens many of us will use to view them. This is the problem responsive design is meant to address.

Instead of defining spaces and widths by a fixed pixel count, responsive design is based on percentages. So it says something like “have this content take up 50% of the width of the site until the width drops below this many pixels, and then have it take up the full width and push other content below it.” It’s much more flexible, meaning your site will look good no matter what device your members use to view it.

Responsive design benefits your SEO

We’ve written on our build/create blog that good SEO means writing for people. Well, it means designing for them, too. When the good folks at Google write their algorithms, they are only trying to solve one question: How can we help a searcher find what they’re looking for? The Google looks to your copy for clues, but your bounce rate is the real litmus test: When people go to your site, do they stay?

Google can’t tell the difference between someone leaving your site because the content wasn’t relevant and someone leaving because they couldn’t use it on their smart phone. But they will reward you by boosting your site rating if it responds well on mobile, which In effect, also penalizes you for having an unresponsive site.

Grow your membership

All of this has a direct impact on your membership growth. Do you have difficulty drawing in new members to your site? If they’re coming to you from their phones but then find your site frustrating or unhelpful, they will leave. After all the work of getting them there in the first place, it’s a shame to lose them for such a basic reason.

It’s all about user experience

The bottom line is usability: if your website doesn’t work, your users can’t (or won’t) use it. And if it doesn’t fulfill that function, why do you have one in the first place?

The answer, of course, is because this is the era of the Internet: if you don’t have a website, you might as well not exist. And having a website that looks bad or functions poorly reflects negatively on your organization and the members in it. So take the time to do your website right: it will be worth the investment.

Published 04/29/16 by Laura Lynch