Is your website or e-commerce site using responsive design ? If not, now’s the time to make a change.
An increasing amount of Internet traffic is coming from mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones. Not only are users doing social networking, checking and sending email, and surfing the web on mobiles; they are also making more purchases from these devices.
However, conventional web designs rarely account for the small screen sizes and different ways people use mobile devices. Responsive design corrects for these issues. It makes websites more functional and attractive whether visitors access them on desktops, tablets, or smartphones.
Benefits of Responsive Design
Adding responsive design to an e-commerce site is a wise investment for businesses of any size and in every industry. When a site readily accommodates any screen size, the benefits are:
- Increased traffic — When customers are on the go, they often pull up websites they can view quickly and easily to obtain the information they need. Responsive sites make this possible, which results in visitors that come more often and stick around longer.
- Improved customer satisfaction — Websites that don’t incorporate responsive design often appear clunky and disproportionately small. Text may be hard to read and links difficult to click. With responsive design, reading and navigating a site becomes a snap, which instills confidence in potential customers.
- Higher conversion rates — Website visitors are often looking for a way to distinguish you from your competition and purchase your product. The easier you are to locate, learn about, and place items in a shopping cart, the more likely your site will convert visitors to customers.
How Responsive Design Works and Why it’s Important
Modern websites need to accommodate users of a variety of devices , says Google. Although traditional websites may appear on mobile screens, they often do so at such small sizes that users must manually expand content to find what they need.
If you have responsive design , your website becomes capable of automatically retracting and expanding according to the screen size of the computer, tablet, or smartphone being used. See image above for examples.
According to recent analytics, the average website received 40 percent  of its traffic from mobile users in 2013. This number had doubled since the year before. It seems only likely to increase into the future. With more than 60 percent of mobile users in the United States currently carrying smartphones, these devices are fast becoming the primary method of Internet usage.
Considerations for Implementing Responsive Design
As companies make the transition from traditional to responsive websites, they often do so over several stages. Stages go from (1) contemplation, to (2) implementation, to (3) evaluation. Along the way, they use several considerations to guide their decisions:
- Determining value propositions — When companies take the time to clearly define a compelling reason for audiences to visit their websites and become their customers, they end up with designs that better what they need. What is the customer looking for? What value does the customer get? Everything from your product to your service to your website functionality — all should work in conjunction with that value proposition.
- Considering a mobile website — Depending on the complexity and types of features on your site, it may not work well on mobile devices, even with responsive design. Should this be the case, a separate mobile website offers a useful alternative. Customers can choose which version of the site they prefer, which enables them to customize their experience.
- Examining competitors’ sites — Although each company’s website should be unique, look at competitor websites. This is a smart way to understand what mobile customers might expect. You may also discover ideas for functions and features that would work well on your own site.
- Selecting a design — When it comes to responsive design, simple is best. Many modern responsive websites incorporate larger, high-quality images along with minimal text. They use features such as cards to organize information. Regardless of the design, it should work with the functionality of the new website.
Which Type of Responsive Design is Right for Your Site?
According to  DigiTech Web Design, deciding how to include responsive design in your website “depends on multiple factors, including your website’s unique characteristics, staffing capabilities, how much time you have, and your budget.”
These details help businesses choose between one or more of the prevailing responsive design adoption techniques, including:
- Mobile-first responsive design — Companies designing a new website — or doing a complete overhaul — may want to consider this strategy. It molds the desktop site to its mobile design for a simpler, cleaner look. Mobile-first responsive design works well for companies whose audiences use smartphones and tablets as their primary device.
- Responsive mobile sites — When a website proves too complex to translate into a responsive version, companies opt instead to build separate mobile sites from scratch. This helps the site retain its unique aesthetics. It takes into account the separate user experiences of mobile versus desktop users.
- Responsive retrofitting — When a website already has features conducive to responsive design, programmers change things around on the “back end” to make the site responsive without having to do a complete redesign. This often presents a more affordable option for companies who have a limited budget, or those who have already invested a great deal in web design.
- Piecemeal responsive design — Websites may offer certain pages that are more appealing to mobile users than other pages. Rather than designing the whole website for the desktop or mobile user, a piecemeal approach treats each page separately. This option can help companies save money, if all they really need isto change a few pages.
Once you’ve decided on an approach, using responsive design will likely pay out dividends in increased traffic, happier customers, and a healthier bottom line.
Will you be a “leader of the pack” among your competitors in incorporating responsive design?
Remix of responsive design illustration  by Shutterstock