Do I Need A Mobile Responsive Website?

It has become a mobile world.  What does this mean for that website you just refreshed a couple of years ago?

Perhaps less than you think...

Many years ago, the definition of a mobile site implied a style-stripped site with very minimal markup, and optional image display (Check out the Google Mobilizer project).  In today's web, the mobile target is almost always going to be smartphone and tablet devices. With this in mind, it really depends on the intended usage of your site.  For the majority of small business brochure designs (where contact information and legitimacy is key), your existing style might be just fine. Many designers work with various desktop constraints in mind, as pictured by the browser size tool - now in Google Analytics).  

With context, these dimensions for optimal desktop visibility are also somewhat compatible for mobile smartphone resolutions, the point being that the key information and navigation of your site can be accomplished without a lot of scrolling around for users with smaller displays. Inherent in the design of all mobile browsers is also pretty decent support for traversing a desktop-centric web space.  Out of the box, just about any mobile browser will cleanly scale down the size of a website such that it will fit nicely in the screen area... and typically, this is just fine for a simple brochure site.

At a glance, to check to see roughly how great (or poor) your site looks, check out this tool.

Less than perfect?  Check Google Analytics to see if you have a lot of visitors using mobile devices with, then follow these directions.

Does your site need some mobile work? Be cautious and consider these points:

Snake Oil

Although there are some services and tools that will claim to add responsive (mobile friendly) characteristics to your site like magic, (or for a few bucks), these tools are not going to apply any usability analysis or design for you, and in some cases may actually frustrate your mobile and desktop users. Sometimes, if your site is simple enough, these might work out.. but it's important to test this.

A properly thought out responsive design will and should cost more than a traditional static design.

Carefully consider the difference in the mobile and desktop site, particularly with regard to users who might use each platform, and may become confused by the layout differences.

LAST but not LEAST - The purpose of this post is not to denigrate Responsive Design. We believe this is an excellent tool, and do recommend it for consideration when a new site is being developed where there is reason to believe that many of the visitors will be mobile. Remember mobile browsers are designed to handle static sites quite well, and just because it is newer and trendy, it is not necessarily the best choice for your business.

Feel free to leave your comments below.