If your business already has a website up and running, you may need to take another look at the way that your online presence is perceived in the ever-developing world of technology. An increasing amount of public consumers are shunning their desktop and laptop computers and now prefer to use their tablets or mobile phones to browse on the internet. Whilst it may be accurate to assume that many technological changes are merely fads that last no longer than a few months, it would be folly to apply that label to the mobile and tablet brigade that prefer to use their handheld devices for website interaction nowadays. This article will address a few keys points and make some suggestions that could well help your own business to reach a demographic that may well represent a large chunk or your potential client base in the near future.
What exactly are responsive websites?
Let’s get the ball rolling with an explanation of what these websites actually are and how they are designed. If you compare a tablet or mobile phone display screen with a PC or laptop equivalent, the main difference between the two is the overall display size on offer. Okay, you can shrink that size down into something that a smaller display device can deal with, but when you think about the text and imagery on offer, the smaller screen cannot really compete with its heftier sized brother. So in order to make your website look just as attractive on the comparatively diminutive screen, there needs to be a significant amount of tweaking behind the scenes. Responsive web design is the official label attached to the technology behind making these changes and it has become a very important part of online marketing. As well as resizing the entire page, responsive web design aims to break down and alter the vital elements of the original website page for a smaller and more dynamic result.
Is your website optimised for mobile phone and tablet screen displays?
The easiest way to answer this question is to type in your company website URL into the mobile or tablet search engine and see what pops up onto your screen. The chances are that what you are seeing will be a scaled out version of the landing page that fits onto the tablet or mobile screen in question. This is the safest bet for any website that has yet to be optimised for smaller display options and as such, indicates that your website has not been built to work as a responsive website for mobiles or tablets.
How can you make your website responsive for mobiles?
If you are adept at website design, there are a number of changes that you can make in order to convert your website display possibilities to work with smaller screens. Here are a few of the more vital aspects that you’ll need to address for the website to work in a responsive manner for tablets and mobile screens:
- Remove the default zoom – This covers the feature we have already mentioned, the way that your website will automatically zoom to fit the required display screens associated with mobile devices. This needs to be effectively removed before any constructive work can be carried out on your website. You’ll find information on this activity on the myriad of techie sites that cover website optimisation; it can be achieved by appending a specific Meta tag into the document header.
- Dynamic image scaling - Your website images are extremely important and these will require some adjustment when considering the responsive features we are discussing here. A typical image should be laid out to allow a max-width property, and this can confuse IE when your image has been scaled down for handheld device browsing capability. In order to allow for the correct display to make this switch, you will be required to compile an IE –friendly stylesheet that includes ‘width: 100%’ as the main parameter.
- Touchscreen friendly designs – All smartphones and tablets have touchscreen interfaces and this is probably the main chasm that separates them from tradition keyboard based devices. Therefore you will need to think about a different set of solutions to cater for the mobile element involved in responsive web design. Navigational links should also be increased in size as well as adding a considerable amount of JQuery code onboard.
- Custom CSS layouts – The natural degradation of the original content should be catered for when making the transition to responsive design.
- Toggle for extra content – It would be impossible and unrealistic to expect a large screen website page to be legible on a 7 or 8 inch screen so the extra content needs to be hidden and easily viewed by way of a toggle facility.
We would recommend that any webmaster without a sound knowledge of the above fundamentals hand over the reins of this transformation to a specialist team in the first instance. Thereafter, it may be less challenging to make some alterations on an individual basis and eventually this technology will become second nature.
Why should you consider making this switch?
As we have already touched upon, nowadays it is looking like more potential customers are using these far smaller handheld devices to look for new ways of doing business. If your website simply does not work in a responsive manner, they are more likely to choose a rival supplier who has taken the time and effort to offer their online presence in a mobile or tablet-friendly manner. Even existing customers may feel hard done by, especially when they have spent hard cash on a smartphone or an equally expensive high end tablet.
What is the best way forward for my business website?
If you are handy enough with your website building skills, you can create a dummy site and play around until you are happy enough with the results before applying your new skillset to your business website. But, as mentioned previously, you should take this transformation very seriously indeed as the ramifications are going to be widespread should you fall short of your desired objectives. Mobile browsing is a huge chunk of the potential marketplace and the typical smartphone/tablet wielding individual will not be that patient when they are looking for a product or service that fits their needs. As well as looking for a dedicated responsive website builder, you could also look at building a mobile website for you current and future client base.
Mobile website versus responsive web design – which one is the best?
Mobile websites are built specifically to work on a mobile device and although they negate the need to transform your main business website to a responsive website manner, they may not be the answer to your solution. Having a single website that works on all platforms appears to be the best option because running two websites will require more effort regarding maintenance and the running costs may also be an unnecessary outlay. The technical expertise required in order to create a mobile website is fairly low and this is partially due to the myriad of mobile website templates that are currently available. Getting your products or services out the huge mobile market is an activity that any business user needs to address, and creating a mobile website will certainly plug that gap in the short term rather nicely. But if you are thinking about the long game, the responsive website may offer a more stable and ultimately lucrative solution for this modern dilemma.
Okay, I have a responsive website for my business, how do I test its effectiveness?
Whether you have applied the changes yourself, or have paid a 3rd party specialist to transform your business website into a responsive interface, you should endeavour to test the finished article before letting it loose on the lucrative mobile browsing brigade. We have selected some of the best methods to ascertain whether or not your website is going to make a great impression or flop its way into mobile failure:
- Respondr – This is a fairly basic yet effective tool that allows you to enter your website URL into the application and you simply enter the device that you are testing it for into the mix. You’ll get a preview that shows how the screen will look when viewed through the mobile or tablet screen that you are interested in.
- Viewport Resizer – This works a little like a bookmarklet and when you enter the website address into the viewport resizer field you will have the options to see how it is perceived via a HDTV, smartphones, small tablet and a widescreen tablet device.
- Responsivator – This will take your website display and offer you up to 7 different widths that begin with a small smartphone screen and all the way up to a regular desktop display option. You can also use the customised URL to share your results with your business colleagues.
- jResize Plugin – This is a jQuery plugin that offers a one –window responsive development option. When you choose the variety of screen widths on offer the page will shift accordingly allowing you to make your adjustments as you work on the responsive website changes required.
- Screenqueri.es – Our final responsive website testing tool is a real belter that allows the tester or user to pull a slider that adjusts the screen display width for your perusal. It also has a total of 26 presets that should cover pretty much all of the available handheld devices currently in use on the open market.
Hopefully this article has provided any business website owners with the information they require with regards making that switch to a responsive website in the future.