Responsive Web Design – why the fuss?

Smartphone and laptop

Look around you right now. How many devices can you see that are not your old-school desktop computer? There’s even a fairly high probability that are you are reading this blog on a smartphone or a tablet. According to Reseller News, vendors shipped 334.9 million smartphones worldwide in the first quarter of 2016 (Read Article). Hand-held devices provide instant access to the world are everywhere – and users are become more and more discerning and demanding of website performance. Hence the fuss about responsive web design.


In a nutshell responsive web design means that a website automatically responds to the size of the screen that it is displayed on. Not only are there huge (and obvious) size differences between a smartphone and a desktop screen, but there is also a wide variety of laptop and desktop screen dimensions.

Why Bother?

Research firm Horizon Research Ltd issued a press release in November last year stating that they believed that 92% of adults in New Zealand would have a smartphone within 12 months (Article here). Ninety two percent! That means that nearly every adult in NZ will have a phone that is capable of accessing your website – on a very small screen.

Ensuring that your website is mobile responsive sends a powerful message to your customers (and potential customers) that you mean business. A website that resizes beautifully to whichever screen it is being viewed on doesn’t so much guarantee that visitors will stay on your site per se. It does however guarantee that they won’t leave out of frustration because they can’t use the site on their device of the moment. A non-responsive site can even cause brand damage by leaving such a bitter taste in mouths of end users that they dismiss your brand entirely from their considerations. It’s simply not worth the risk.

But wait – there’s more! In early 2015 “Mobilegeddon” hit when Google search engine optimisation algorithms were re-worked so that mobile responsive sites secured a boosted ranking. These new formulas mean that in the highly competitive world of SEO rankings, adding mobile responsiveness to your website must-have list has now become essential.


How can it be done?

There are 2 ways to skin this cat – mobile responsive web design or a dedicated mobile site.

A dedicated mobile site is an additional website built specifically to work on mobile devices. This means that the site content owners have not only their standard website to keep updated but also their second, mobile friendly site. That’s 2 lots of content, 2 lots of products and 2 lots of work! The advantage is that it can provide a pared down version of the site which is great for things like freight tracking (though many of these sites can potentially be replaced by apps).

Responsive sites, on the other hand, have coding built in that automatically adjusts the website for the screen that it is being displayed on. These sites can be more costly upfront but the beauty is that there is only one website to maintain and keep updated.


Smart phones and other mobile web connected devices are not going away – and the need for websites that respond to these devices isn’t either. It is essential that your digital strategy includes mobile responsiveness as an essential – if you haven’t done it already. Each approach has pros and cons so talk the options through with your web developer and make sure that the option you choose meets your brand requirements and your long term strategic goals, as well as providing an immediate fix.

In the meantime check your mobile responsiveness, and that of your competitors using the Mobile Friendly analysis tool that Google have kindly provided: