The immediate danger to organisations, therefore, is that their site may not be suitable for this large proportion of users. If there is too much effort involved in using your site – for example if elements are too fiddly to tap, or pages require a lot of panning and zooming to read, then this proportion of your audience will leave you for someone else.
Unfortunately, most websites developed over 24 months ago, and even some more modern ones, do not properly cater for mobile users. Look at each page on your website with your smartphone, and if all you see is a tiny copy of the same page you see on your laptop/desktop, then there are significant improvements which can be made. A site which requires constant pinch zooming and panning is too much effort to work with, and won’t keep its visitors.
A responsive site is one which smartly rearranges itself to fit the device it’s being viewed on. For example, it will display text in three columns on a laptop, two on a tablet and one on a phone. On small touch-driven devices it will ensure that buttons and links are large enough to hit accurately with a finger. And the navigation will be laid out to fit the device.
Take a look at Apps In The Sky’s website for example. On a desktop PC it looks like this:
On a phone it looks like this:
Note how the navigation is moved into a pull-down menu on the top right, to prevent it from being too small to tap. The text has been moved into one thin column so it fits naturally on a phone screen. And importantly, notice how nothing has been removed – every piece of information, option and functionality remains. (This compares to the old fashioned “mobile” sites, which were just a cut-down version of the main site, and generally had people reaching for the “view full site” button).
So a responsive site is a bare minimum for practically any organisation. If you don’t already have one, then creating one will provide more visitors, whose better experience means they will stay for longer. It is a great, and relatively simple, way to improve business.
However a website, even a well crafted responsive one, still suffers many problems common to all websites. For example, perhaps obviously, no website is of any use when your internet connection is poor – a situation common to most mobile users on the move. And a website can only provide generic information: it knows very little about its visitors, so its messaging is necessarily generic rather than highly-targeted. These problems can be solved with a dedicated app… the subject of next week’s blog!