Make your website responsive, for Google’s sake

If you’ve ever questioned whether a blog post could change the world, Ethan Marcotte’s 2010 article on responsive design provides a definitive answer. The introduction of fluid grids, flexible images, and media queries has dramatically altered the way we design and interact with the web.

What was only a few years ago a niche trend among developers has quickly become the norm. Not everyone knows what “responsive design” is, but most web users have come to expect it.

Go mobile or go home

In case you hadn’t heard: mobile is king. With 60 percent of all web searches now taking place on mobile devices, Google decided earlier this year to reward responsive sites by making some changes to its search algorithm. The announcement prompted a torrent of apocalyptic speculation, with SEO marketers deeming the algorithmic shift “Mobilegeddon.”

Turns out the hysteria was a bit overblown. The day of the update came and went, and while some sites saw their rankings rise and drop correspondingly, it was hardly the end of the internet as we know it.

Still, mobile is extremely important and only going to become more so. Gone are the days when content and keywords were your only concerns: usability is a huge part of not just driving traffic to your site but keeping users happy. Ain’t nobody got no time for slow-loading, improperly-rendered pages.

Check yourself

If you’re still on the fence about responsive web design (known from here on out as “web design”), now is the time to blow the dust off your Google Analytics and see how many people  are visiting your site from a mobile device. Compare your desktop stats to your mobile stats: if your bounce rate is higher on mobile, while your average session duration and pages per session are lower, that’s a problem.

Besides Google Analytics, there are dozens of free tools for testing mobile optimization — though many would argue that the only one you really need is Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test.

Know your options

Failed the test? Don’t worry, it’s not the end of the road. If your website isn’t mobile-friendly, you’re essentially looking at two options: a mobile-friendly retrofit or a shiny new responsive build.

While retrofitting your current design to be responsive isn’t exactly beginner-level stuff (it will require creating a new viewport meta tag and a smattering of new CSS), it’s a reasonable fix if you’ve got a code monkey in your corner.

The new responsive build option, while not always cheap or fast, is arguably the better value and more sustainable choice. You can start by rebuilding the most frequently accessed pages on your site (usually the home and contact pages) and working outward until you’re fully mobile-friendly.

Now is probably a good time to mention that we make beautiful and responsive WordPress themes, with more than 20 premium designs to choose from. We’re also super friendly.

After the apocalypse

It’s hard to pin down how much of the web is now responsive (reports range from an optimistic 82 percent to a dismal 11.8). Whatever the truth is, it’s at once “a lot” and “not enough.” Anyone who’s done any browsing on a phone lately knows there are still plenty of awkward, slow, squished-looking sites out there.

As we scramble to keep up with the explosion of web-ready devices being released, rather than try to appease the Google gods, we should prioritize user experience. A responsive web is a better web. As Marcotte wrote in his blog post: “Now more than ever, we’re designing work meant to be viewed along a gradient of different experiences. Responsive web design offers us a way forward.”

PSA: As of Sept. 29, 2017, you can no longer purchase themes from this website. We will continue to provide limited support, including bug fixes and security updates, until March 31, 2018. Thank you for everything. We'll miss you dearly.