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So you have a business, and a website, and everything is going just fine, thank you very much. That’s great news, but every business wants to grow, be as successful as it can be, and stay abreast with its competitors. Is there more you could do and could your website help you achieve this? In short, yes. Yes it can.

It’s not been long since a website for your business was something that just needed to look good and function well on a desktop computer screen or laptop, but times are a-changing and they’re changing fast. Mobile technology is evolving all the time and, as it does, new devices hit the market on a regular basis, armed with the ability to browse the web and display your website.So what, that’s what you want, right? Absolutely! The more people at the party the better. But, if your guests aren’t having a good time, they’re unlikely to want to come to another one of yours.

Ever tried to buy something online using a smartphone? Often you are displayed a very tiny version of the website you would see on a desktop screen, meaning lots of zooming in, moving around, pressing things you don’t mean to and generally having a fiddly and frustrating experience. You can achieve what you are trying to do, but it’s not always easy.

So what can you do about the website experience for your visitors who are using these new devices with much smaller screens? That’s where responsive web design comes in...

Ok, what is responsive web design?

Due to the vast array of mobile devices, tablets and smartphones on the market, it would be impossible to make a version of your website for each one - an approach that would break down when a device comes out at a size you haven’t built for. The better solution would be to adjust the desktop website gracefully and dynamically, dependent on the size of the user’s screen. The desktop website is still being rendered to your visitor, but the site responds to the size of the screen to ensure that the site looks good, regardless of screen size or device type. This is responsive web design. There is every chance you have already heard of it, it is big news, but may have been unsure of what it is. This short series of posts will introduce the concept, go over the benefits of going responsive, how it is done, and what you can expect to gain from the change should you choose to adopt it.

Sounds good, but a lot of work and investment. Do I really need it?

Over 1.8 billion mobile phones were sold worldwide in 2013, with smartphones accounting for more than half of these. Tablets in the last few years have risen to prominence as well, meaning there are more ways than ever for people to visit your website and you can be sure that a significant proportion of your web traffic is coming from people using mobile devices. That proportion is also rising and will continue to do so.

It is difficult to say exactly how much of your web traffic is coming from mobile devices as it varies by website type and sector, but you can safely assume that it is a noticeable percentage. If your website doesn’t perform well, look good, or is hard to use on smaller screens, you run the risk of alienating users on these devices and miss out on potential sales or leads, while pushing potential customers towards competitors who have adopted a mobile-friendly approach.

Making your website mobile-friendly makes it easier for a whole new breed of devices to be catered for and utilised to do the same job as your desktop site. Responsive web design isn’t about creating websites for specific smartphones or tablets, but ensuring that your single website is attractive, usable, legible and functional no matter what the device may be or how small, helping you turn visitors into customers and adding a layer of future-proofing to your web presence. In this way, it is a long-term investment and one that is undoubtedly worthwhile.

In part 2 of this series of posts, we’ll have a look at the main benefits of making your site responsive and what it means in real terms...