If your business hasn’t implemented a mobile-friendly offering of your website, you’re likely starting to feel the effects of Google’s Mobile-friendly Update, which prioritizes mobile-friendly sites and site pages in their search algorithm. Without it, you have likely seen a decrease in visitors arriving through organic mobile search results. Further, as mobile devices grow as the preferred method of browsing, this also means people are steering away from your desktop-only site when they find navigation unusable and content unreadable. Responsive website design is all the rage, so it might feel like the natural direction to take your site, but given the reality of what a full site redesign could cost, is an alternate option to reinvent critical experiences within your site as mobile-friendly, responsive experiences – and leave the rest to next year’s budget? Here are a few factors to help guide your decision.
Your main objective with a mobile-friendly site is to provide your guest an experience that is as easy to navigate and enjoyable as your desktop site. One logical solution is to turn to a responsive web design framework, such as Bootstrap or Foundation, that allows you develop one set of page content that can fluidly adjust to different browser sizes and devices. However, with that typically comes an evaluation of navigation, page structure, content hierarchy, etc. If the goal is to update only certain sections of the site to be responsive, for example, the home page and critical sections like registration, there are a number of key questions you’ll want to address first. What will the experience be like for users who enter the site and navigate from the mobile-friendly homepage to one of the legacy sections? Chances are they’ll feel like they’ve left your site and been directed somewhere else, which is the opposite of your goal. If you update navigation site wide, will legacy pages with new navigation still make sense? Have you also inadvertently removed content that was page or section specific?
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Often, it Comes Down to Costs
If you release a mobile-friendly, responsive experience for only a portion of your site, you’ll need to design a solution that supports the new direction as well as existing legacy areas. When you’re ready to update the entire site, and legacy is out of the picture, it will require a reexamination of both design and code – and with that extra work comes extra costs. To avoid this scenario, one option is to create mobile-friendly experiences that live outside the main site; for example, targeted to specific markets or select product offerings that don’t require the support of the main site.
What are the Alternatives?
When you’re not ready to take the plunge and redesign an entire responsive website, but you recognize the conflicts that may arise from a partial responsive experience, it’s often worthwhile to look at what thought leaders in digital are doing. Some of the largest brands don’t utilize responsive websites. For example, Apple has a unique desktop experience and mobile experience, but their site isn’t responsive. You may not be Apple, but the right short-term solution could still mean keeping the desktop experience as is, while serving up a dedicated version of the site for mobile users – without the full site content, more focused on the needs of mobile users. This may sound a bit like a dated solution of serving up an m.domain.com version of your site, where a responsive web design feels much more cutting edge, but remember, the goal isn’t always to use the most cutting edge solutions, but to truly connect with your users.