When smartphones were just coming out (remember the Blackberry?), webmasters started thinking about optimizing their websites for mobile devices. At first, the trend was to create a separate website just for mobile devices. Typically, this separate website would be published at a subdomain – http://m.yourwebsite.com – and often times users would have the ability to toggle between the Desktop version and Mobile version of a website.
Today, the trend of having two separate websites is quickly declining – and for good reason! The early movers recognized a need to optimize for mobile, but is it possible to over-optimize? Nowadays, smart website designs are built on the basis of responsive design. What exactly is responsive design? Let’s go over the basics.
Responsive design refers to the design of a website as it scales to different screen sizes. To explain a little further, imagine a website on your desktop. It has a lot of detail and the different pieces (menu, main content, footer) are spread out across the page. If you open the same website on a tablet, the design is slightly different, taking into consideration the new, smaller dimensions. The most obvious change is when you open the same website on a phone, and the elements are stacked and the design is much more minimal.
You can test for a responsive website without going from device to device. Just open your browser of choice on your desktop (or laptop) computer. Take your cursor and hover over the bottom left corner. Press your mouse button down and drag the cursor towards the left, eventually moving up. You will be able to see the website rearrange itself before your eyes. If it doesn’t scale, it’s not a responsive web design.
Another user-friendly characteristic of a responsive design is that you don’t need to redirect and approve of the mobile version of the website. Instead, the website just adjusts on it’s own, with no input necessary from the user. From the webmaster’s point of view, if you have a responsive design, you only have to update your website once. If you have a mobile version of your website, you will have to update that in addition to the desktop version. This causes an SEO problem in that the two versions of your website are competing for rank on Google.
The latest Google update has been referred to as “Mobilegeddon” because it has made mobile-friendly web design so much more important for ranking in search results. In the question regarding whether Google prefers a mobile version of a website or responsive web design, they have taken the stance that responsive design will help you to rank higher in search results.
It’s pretty clear that responsive web design has a lot of advantages, and creates a better user experience overall. If your website has a mobile-specific version, or no mobile-optimized version at all, contact us at Iceberg Web Design to see what options exist for fixing this issue!