Reaching the Mobile Internet: The Need for Responsive Websites

You wouldn’t buy a newspaper or a book, cut out a small rectangular hole in a piece of card, place that on the page and then read the text through the hole, having to move the rectangle along and down the page each time the text went outside the box.

Yet if your business’ website is not responsive that is exactly what you will be asking any customer to do each time they access your site on a mobile device. Making a customer have to scroll around the page, struggling with the navigation and with rising frustration is not the best way to get a new client or to get your key business messages across.

The growth of mobile

Responsiveness is now more than ever a key attribute for websites. The KPCB Internet Trends 2017 report shows that an increasing proportion and length of time is spent online through mobile devices.

Figures for the US show that mobile internet use has grown from 1.6 hours per day in 2012 (36% of total use) to 3.1 hours per day in 2016 (54%), with the corresponding hours for access via a desktop or laptop falling from 2.5 hours and 2.2 hours, respectively, with proportion of access declining from 56% to 39%. Such mobile focused growth can be seen across a full range of fields, not least in advertisements – where growth is driven by mobile advertising, with some $37 billion of mobile advertisement spend in 2016 out of a total of $73 billion.

The key take-home message is that access to the internet is now increasingly focused around mobile devices. Websites have to be able to respond to this. At the most basic, if a website adapts to all main screen resolutions, the improved user experience will enable a person at least to proceed using the website. If there is no mobile version, the user will often just close a website.

The growth of online purchases

Online shopping via mobile devices is one of the most rapidly growing segments in any market. The KPCB Internet Trends 2017 report shows this clearly, with online retail sales year on year growth of 15% in 2016. Separate figures from a recent IMRG Capgemini eRetail Sales Index report shows that sales through phones grew by 47% year-on-year to December 2016.

This rapid growth demonstrates the importance of ensuring that e-commerce websites have mobile-friendly interfaces, not least to ensure that inbound customers coming via mobile devices are not put off.

Social media links

Companies have to be cognisant that people move between social media and websites without a change in focus. With social media mainly used via mobile devices, company websites and their content – be it news, customer accounts, or online marketplaces – have to be responsive. There needs to be consistent branding between mobile and desktop versions to enhance the company’s online presence and image.

Responsiveness and SEO

Another consideration concerns SEO. Google’s (in)famous ‘Mobilegeddon’ update in 2015, which meant that priority on mobile search results would be given to websites that were mobile-compatible, is maybe the highest profile example of this. The message was clear. If businesses want to be able to remain competitive, especially businesses that depend on local or pass-by trade, they need to be mobile friendly. The growth in voice searching compounds this.

Lower costs

WordPress remains one of the main bases for open-source website development, with over 28.2% of the top 10 million websites using it, as of June 2017. The benefit of using WordPress is that it also enables costs to be reduced by the company – there is no need to run different versions of your website (e.g. one for desktop access, one for mobile access etc), one version can cover all. The time and content management costs are therefore reduced, as are the chances of outdated or inaccurate content accidentally being left on online.

Bottom line

With the continuing, rapid growth in mobile internet use and mobile device penetration, having a website that is responsive is becoming an expected standard and is essential if a company is to be able to best position itself in its market. With benefits in terms of cost and SEO, companies should choose the right company delivering web application development services and ensure that their online presence is optimised for the direction in which internet access is moving.