Websites that are slow and sluggish aren’t any fun for anyone. They aren’t just technical failures; they won’t be able to build an appreciable audience. For businesses, an unresponsive website will reflect poorly on the brand as a whole. Existing customers will be disappointed by an ineffective website, while consumers you are trying to convert into customers are unlikely to be convinced.
On the other hand, a nimble and responsive website gives off a professional vibe and serves as a much more compelling advertisement for your business. An effective business website needs to be technically competent while also providing users with vital information about your business. A responsive website makes it easier for users to navigate and find their way to the features and information they’re looking for.
Below are five essential techniques for making your business website more responsive and unlocking its true potential.
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A Dynamic Layout
Arguably the most important component of responsive website design is a dynamic layout. Having a dynamic layout means that your site will automatically adjust itself to display optimally on whatever device the user is browsing on. With so many different mobile devices on the market, each with a different screen size and resolution, manually configuring your website to display on each of them is impossible.
Web designers used to have to develop entirely separate mobile friendly versions of their websites to load whenever they detected a user accessing the website via mobile internet. Even when the number of mobile devices capable of accessing the internet was relatively small, it was a crapshoot as to whether a mobile website would work properly or not.
Using a dynamic CSS style sheet and media queries will automatically adjust elements on a web page depending on the specifications of the users’ device. Most of us have grown so used to our mobile browsing experience being comparable to browsing on a desktop computer that we now take it for granted. But if you open a website on your mobile phone that doesn’t adjust automatically, it’s a jarring experience.
A website that doesn’t adjust dynamically won’t just provide a worse user experience; it will be much more difficult to navigate and use, especially for users with smaller screens. Using flexible layouts ensure that all your users can have an equally good experience on your site, regardless of the device they use to browse it.
One of the most important metrics that Google uses to calculate a websites’ SEO score is its bounce rate. Put simply; your bounce rate is a measure of the number of people who land on your website, take one look at it, and leave again without taking any further action. A high bounce rate is usually a reflection of a generally lazy approach to a websites’ design and development.
One of the most common design deficiencies that leads to a high bounce rate is awkward and counterintuitive navigation. If it isn’t immediately obvious to a new user how to find their way around your website and navigate to the content they need, they are unlikely to spend long trying to work it out.
Good navigation is a cornerstone of any responsive website. This is another aspect of your website that should automatically adjust depending on the device the user is browsing on. Desktop devices with large screens give you plenty of space to place links to the different pages and categories that comprise your site. On the other hand, the hamburger menu has become the go-to for mobile navigation.
Not every user with a mobile device will be familiar with the hamburger menu; it’s a good idea to place links to the core pages of your site outside of this menu where they are immediately evident to smartphone users.
As Lightweight As Possible
The more elements there are on a web page, the longer it will take to load. This might seem obvious, but it’s easy to forget. You don’t necessarily have to aim for a minimalist approach to your website design, but you should make sure that everything on your site has a purpose. If you can’t identify a sound business reason for including any piece of content on your website, it is probably best to lose it.
This applies both to the content of your website (individual pages) and the elements embedded in each page (media, scrips, web apps). Any excess pages and features will slow your website down and increase the data load for your users. While mobile data is relatively cheap, your users still won’t appreciate having to use more data than necessary to access and load your website. A site designed to be as lightweight as possible won’t eat up data needlessly.
A simple but very effective technique for keeping your website lightweight is to make use of scroll triggers. A scroll trigger will tell your website not to load certain page elements unless the user scrolls down far enough to see them. By putting these in place, your users won’t have to spend any more data than they have to. If they only view the top half of a webpage, there’s no need for them to load the content contained in the lower half.
We have already discussed some of the techniques that web designers can use to make their website more efficient and responsive for mobile users. However, while dynamic webpages are a critical aspect of mobile optimisation, they aren’t the end of the story. Full mobile optimisation is a more involved process that involves extensive testing of your website on mobile devices, or through the use of emulators.
The only way you can be sure that you have correctly optimised your website for different mobile devices and screen resolutions is by loading your site up on these devices and seeing for yourself. You can emulate devices through most advanced web design applications, but emulation is never perfect.
Before you roll out any significant updates to your websites’ design or architecture, it is worth beta testing. There is a good reason that major social media platforms demo their major updates by rolling them out to select groups of users before pressing ahead with a full-scale update.
Using the flexible grid system enables you to divide your web pages into multiple rows and columns to form a grid. You can adjust the borders of each row and column individually and embed UI elements within the resultant grid. The grid is dynamic; it will automatically scale depending on the users’ device and their screen settings.
Similarly, flexible images, sometimes known as adaptive images, will adjust their properties to suit the device the user is viewing them on. In fact, with adaptive images, you can o more than just adjust the size of an image on your site; you can have a completely different, more suitable image, load if you think it will work better for the user.
Optimise Your Images
Flexible images are a great start, but there is more you can do to ensure that the images your users have to load don’t hamper the overall responsiveness of your website. For example, the image format you use will make a considerable difference to the overall file size, the quality of the image, and how reliably it displays for different users.
There is no single image format that automatically trumps the others; you should base your decision on the type of image and its purpose. For photographic images, JPG is the preferred image type. But for icons, logos, and similar non-photographic images, PNG-8 is the usual standard. You can use a tool like TinyJPG to reduce the file size of your images further and keep your pages as lightweight as possible.
Building a responsive business website isn’t just about making a search engine happy; it’s essential if you want your website to be an effective lead generation tool. If your website is unresponsive, users aren’t likely to stick around very long. An unresponsive and technically incompetent website is also a poor reflection on your business as a whole. With the design principles outlined above, you should have no trouble building a responsive and effective website.