By Brad Shorr
Responsive Web design enables website pages to automatically adjust for optimal viewing on desktop monitors, tablets and mobile phones. Because mobile Internet usage is exploding, small businesses must either implement responsive sites or risk losing a significant number of leads, customers and online business. If your company is ready to go responsive, here are 10 important things to keep in mind.
1. Hire a Web design firm with responsive experience. The responsive Web design process is very different from the traditional approach. As a client, you will rely on your design firm’s expertise for your online survival – that being the case, you surely don’t want to be a guinea pig.
2. Simplify navigation. Mobile users are less likely than desktop users to dig through pages and pages of website content to find what they need. Highly effective responsive sites keep top-level navigation elements to a minimum.
3. Streamline content. Mobile users are less willing to scroll through thousands of words. To maximize user interest, keep content as short and hard-hitting as possible.
4. Eliminate PDFs. Many business sites take shortcuts on their sites by uploading PDFs instead of converting them to HTML pages. Big mistake! PDFs are notoriously difficult to read on small screens, as they require pinch-zooming and horizontal scrolling.
5. Eliminate unnecessary design elements. In general, the simpler a Web page’s design, the more appealing it is to mobile users. Get rid of fancy fonts, multiple fonts, highly stylized borders, etc. Not only are they distracting, they may also slow page loading time – another massive deterrent to keeping users on your site.
6. Keep your phone number visible. The easiest thing for a mobile user to do is call your business while visiting your site. Mobile inquiries tend to be hot inquiries, so keep a link to your phone number prominent in the navigation.
7. Have a simple contact form. Mobile users will not fill out scores of required fields on a contact form – too much typing, too slow. Effective mobile forms are short and sweet, and as with the phone number, prominent in the site navigation.
8. Use calls to action that matter to users. If you have a dental practice, users of your site probably want to schedule an appointment, get directions to your office, ask a question about a service or symptom, etc. Messages encouraging these activities should be sprinkled throughout the content, with links to the phone number and the contact form. This is the thought process every small business should work through before starting to build a responsive site.
9. Review development as you go. One huge client benefit of responsive Web design is having the ability to review the progress of your site live on the Web as it is being developed. Take advantage of this and play around with your site on a desktop, tablet and mobile device while it is being built. Usability issues and other problems are often far easier to resolve in the early stages of development.
10. Get user feedback after launch. After our hypothetical dental practice launches its responsive site, it should go way out of its way to find out how patients are using the site, what they like, what they don’t like and what capabilities they’d like to see added. The site launch is only the beginning; successful businesses continuously improve their sites and by doing so create distance between themselves and the competition.
Many of these 10 recommendations apply to traditional desktop sites as well, and always have. The exciting thing about creating a responsive site is that it gives you a golden opportunity to start fresh, to rethink everything. Due to inattention, many small business sites grow stale over time. Use the mobile revolution to revolutionize your entire website strategy. The payoff: Reaching and impressing the vast ocean of mobile users, and making the overall experience of your company more appealing to users working with screens of every shape and size.
Brad Shorr is the B2B Marketing Director of Straight North, a web design firm headquartered near Chicago. Brad writes frequently on Internet marketing and business topics with articles featured on Moz, Forbes and Carol Roth.