Traditionally to cater to the large mobile user base, a website would have a separate mobile version of it designed. This involved building a mobile website that looks and feels like the desktop one but with a unique layout designed for tablets and smaller screen devices such as phones. These mobile sites were then hosted on sub-domains which the user would be re-directed to depending on what device they are accessing the website from (example: m.domain.com.au).
This way of serving mobile websites was not ideal and resulted in many issues such as:
- Businesses having the additional work of developing a separate mobile site
- Appearance of the website wasn’t always the best across all devices (as there are many variations of screen sizes)
- Duplicate content (since the sub-domain would be treated as a different website) which also had a negative impact on SEO.
- Inconvenience of having to maintain more than one website for the same business with the same content – website changes (both content & design) will have to be done separately to each version rather than in just the one place.
Enter the responsive web design:
Responsive website design involves building a single version of a website which would automatically adjust and respond to the size of the screen it is being viewed on. So instead of having to build a separate mobile version of a website, web developers are able to create a flexible design that changes dynamically in order to fit the device it is being viewed on.
Responsive design brought forward several benefits while eliminating the issues with a standalone mobile site, which include:
- Improved user experiences: A good responsive website design will give the visitor a seamless and simple user experience no matter what device they use to view the site. A responsive website will adjust its navigation structure and its layout, in order provide the best user experience possible.
- Saves time & energy: The fact that it is just the one instance of the site which adjusts to the device means multiple versions of content will not have to be maintained. This makes it easier to manage updates saving time and energy. Less effort is required since a change will only need to be made once rather than on each version of the site separately.
- Better for SEO: With search engine algorithms improving on a daily basis, things like duplicate content (because of multiple versions of the same site) can have a negative impact on the SEO. Algorithms are also looking at the mobile friendliness of a website in addition to its general user experience as part of the search ranking. Hence a responsive site will have a better impact on SEO