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What is responsive web design and is it really all it’s made out to be? This article explores some of the potential benefits that having a responsive web design can have on your business.

Have you ever wondered how people access and interact with your business? Well, you should.

Gartner predicts 1.2 billion smart devices will be sold in 2013, up 30% from 2012.

According to Bank of America, retail revenue from mobile commerce in European and US markets rose from $15 billion in 2011 to $26 billion in 2012

These trends signify increased mobile usage for browsing, making purchases and almost everything else you used to do on a desktop with the Internet.

With the myriad of different standards and screen sizes available on the mobile device market, users face frustration when accessing a website that has not been optimized for mobile screens, or only receive a watered down version of the desktop version.

Responsive design is one such solution that leverages on HTML5 standards and “media queries” to fluidly fit one website design across multiple screens.

This means that website users are able to receive the same user experience either on a desktop version, on their mobile phone or on their tablet.

For businesses, this means more time and resources saved instead of creating two or more versions by adopting a new standard that responds to your users whenever and wherever they are.

For those interested, we’ve summed up 5 great reasons why any business should adopt responsive design as their future web strategy:

1. Accessibility

According to Morgan Stanley, 91% of all smartphone users have their phones within an arm’s reach 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

That’s the world we live in now, where we can access any sort of information within an arm’s reach. Is your business meeting your users when they need you?

2. Branding

If you want to appear premium to your users, then appearances can be everything.

Nothing hurts your brand more than having an amazing desktop version full of amazing content and getting the rudimentary mobile version.

Consider your website’s traffic, how many people are accessing your content through mobile devices, and decide if that percentage of your audience is missing out or not

3. Cost

Initial costs to create a responsive design might be high, but businesses should consider the costs associated with unforeseeable overhead costs and opportunity costs.

The alternatives to a responsive design are to design, create and maintain a separate mobile site or building an app for multiple platforms such as iOS, Android, Windows Phone 8, BB10 and so forth.

The opportunity costs involved pertain to lost business opportunities due to a poor mobile experience.

According to a Google Study:

  • 61% of respondents would take their business elsewhere if they encountered a poor mobile experience
  • 61% of consumers said they were more likely to make a purchase if a website was more mobile-friendly

4. Increased Visibility & Optimizing Marketing

Sharing content has become one of the bedrocks of the Internet experience. As such, there is constant sharing between desktop users and mobile users.

Responsive design means that your business only needs to have one URL, for the index page or the other content pages.

This means that if you sent out an email marketing campaign, users who clicked on a link from their mobile phone will receive the same user experience as someone who clicked from their desktop. It’s also easier to A/B test your campaigns when there’s only one version of the site you’re testing.

Another benefit is that there are less load times because your website bypasses redirection to fit into a mobile browser.

A final benefit of having one URL is that it can increase your SEO ranking. When one link is being used, it leverages on search queries and link building efforts from a single source rather than a diluted source of multiple versions.

5. Future Proof your current digital assets

It wasn’t too long ago that HD screens became ubiquitous and the old desktop resolution of 800×600 and aspect ratio of 4:3 became obsolete. Such websites will probably have ugly gaps of empty space on the side of the web browser.

It’s only a matter of time before something new comes along as the new standard. Future proofing your current assets is one way to stay ahead of your competition by being able to fluidly fit new devices in the future.

By building on a standard, you ensure that no stone is unturned to maximize your reach and effectiveness of your assets.

When Responsive Design may not work for you

While all these points reason sound tempting for your business to market effectively and save costs, it is ultimately a choice based on the nature of your business.

For example, you might have an entirely separate mobile strategy and for good reason. You might be leveraging on a mobile device’s hardware, require only specific information for a more straight-forward mobile experience or specific tasks from within an app that it does not make sense to have a responsive design dictate your business.

Overall, there are many benefits for switching to a responsive design in today’s increasingly mobile dominated market, and it seeks to be a viable solution to the problems of having too many screens out in the market. It’ll be an exciting 2013 as we continue to see more businesses switch toward this new web standard.

For more inspiration on Responsive Design, check out The Next Web’s “29 New Inspiring Responsive Designs on the Web”

For a deeper understanding of Responsive Design and its technical components, check out MSDN Magazine’s article on “Responsive Web Design”

This post is part of “Harnessing HTML5”, a series that explores new browser technologies in partnership with Modern.IE