You can’t escape making technology investments in your startup, but knowing where to invest is a huge challenge, but get it right and you reap the rewards. What’s more, if you don’t embrace new technology, even if it makes a deep hole in your pocket, business profitability will just pass you by and all you will be able to do is wave to it.
This is the reason why you must dig into a revolution sweeping the world of web technology, something called responsive web design.
What is responsive web design?
This is a new way of designing for the web. A major shift in the consumption habits of online audiences has given a huge impetus to the use of this design technique.
It’s no secret that PC sales are in a decline and alarmingly so. According to IDC, PC shipments have posted the steepest decline in a single quarter showing a 13.9% slump in the first quarter of 2013 as compared to the same quarter in 2012.
To say this is the beginning of the end of PC dominance would be an understatement. It’s much more than that; it’s a tectonic shifting of allegiances from the desktop to other devices available on the market namely smartphones and tablets. This means your website is being accessed by people using not just desktops but by those using smartphones and tablets as well.
This brings us to an interesting conclusion – You need a website built to fit into the screen sizes of all devices and not just desktops.
Enter Responsive Web Design
The process of responsive web design creates a website that renders effectively on all devices. It uses web technologies like “media queries” to find out the resolution of the device the website is being accessed from, and resizes the website through the use of technologies like CSS 3 and HTML 5, to fit into the screen size.
The use of responsive web design techniques ensures your website can work seamlessly across diverse device screens of varying sizes and resolutions.
All this is well and good, but why does your startup need a responsive website?
There are 7 reasons that stand out. Let’s take a closer look at them.
1. Reach a Wider Audience
A recent study conducted by the Forrester Group has some startling results, for us. According to this report, there will be 1 billion smartphone and tablet customers by 2016. This is a mammoth figure. There is no doubt that a large number of your startup’s target audience will be a part of this user group. You can’t afford not to reach out to this audience, and one of the better ways of doing so will be through a responsive website, that is platform and device agnostic.
Couple this with the fact that mobile internet use is set to grow at a rate of 66% over the next five years and you have more than enough reason for your website to be available on smartphones and tablets. Your online presence needs to be empowered with responsive web design; otherwise it really doesn’t make any kind of sense.
2. A Future Proofed Website that Caters to all new Devices
There is a rumor going around that the new iPhone, either iPhone 5S or iPhone 6 will be made available in varying screen sizes. Although just a rumor, it should make you think. The trend of newer mobile phones and even tablets with varying screen sizes being launched in the market is going to continue. Some of these will go on to scale the popularity charts, and if you don’t take the responsive website design route, you might have to keep making changes to your existing website to ensure it finds a place on these popular devices. This is an expensive proposition, and a time taking one; something that your startup cannot afford.
This is why you must get a responsive website designed that is future proofed against the arrival of all new devices with varying screen sizes and resolutions. Whatever the screen sizes of the devices being launched on the market in the future, your website will be ready for them.
3. Google Loves Responsive Web Design
What’s Google’s loves for responsive web design got to do with startups? Plenty, actually! There are quite a few businesses including startups that look at Google with jaundiced eyes and regard it as something that might or might not be important in their scheme of things. That’s because there are looking at Google purely as a search engine.
Don’t look at Google as a search engine, but a visibility multiplier. A presence on Google ensures better brand recognition and triggers business growth. Look at Google as an empowering and enriching entity that gives your business the competitive edge. The equation is very simple – With 67 percent search market share, your website must figure on Google’s SERPs in order for it to be noticed. And if you want your website to figure right at the top of SERPs, it must leverage Google’s love for ‘Responsive Web Design’.
Google calls responsive web design an industry best practice; that’s because a responsive website doesn’t have multiple URLs and different HTML for different devices; it has just one URL across devices, which means website content can be crawled, indexed and organized efficiently.
Another reason why Google prefers sites that have responsive web design is it believes a single URL facilitates better user interaction with the content and makes it more share worthy.
We had earlier talked about your website reaching out to a wider audience because of its responsive nature, think of Google as the ultimate distribution channel that brings your website to this audience.
4. Better User Experience, Happy Visitors, Better Conversions
Responsive web design enriches the user experience of a site. It can make the website interactive, intuitive and engaging and also make sure these qualities are consistent across all devices. As we well all know, a great user experience gets positive feedback from visitors and there are more chances of such visitors converting into paying customers. Isn’t that what all startups want? More customers!
Something else that user experience brings about is brand recommendation. Your website is like the face of your business and a satisfying UX means your customers will recommend your brand to others.
Think about it for a second, what is the number one reason why a particular person recommends a particular brand to his friends, family, colleagues and acquaintances. It’s because the brand has given the person a satisfying experience. Now relate this thinking to your own startup, its website and the experience it has to offer; the importance of a responsive website will come through to you.
With a responsive website you are not only increasing business reach, but adding to your customer base and improving business sales. But above all, responsive web design helps boost customer loyalty and ensure customer retention.
5. Updates and Upgrades – Less Time and Cost
Startups by their very nature are agile, but this agility must transcend to their online presence as well. Think of a scenario wherein you have a mobile website and a desktop website as you haven’t thought about making your website responsive. In this case, your website administrators will have their work cut out for them; they will need to make separate updates to both websites. Result, man-hours and valuable time wasted.
Another scenario – Say you want to improve the performance of your website by integrating a new feature or implementing a systems overhaul. If you have different websites on multiple platforms, this is going to be a time consuming and a very expensive exercise.
In both cases, the costs incurred and the time taken for making website updates and implementing upgrades come markedly down if you have a responsive website. All startups want to control their overheads, and responsive web design allows them to do just that.
6. Helps your business come up tops in your consumer’s mind space
Your responsive website can be accessed from any and every device that your target consumer will use. So, if he comes across your startup’s website on the mobile web and takes a cursory glance at it because he is in the office, he can go home and access the same website through his laptop, desktop or tablet. He will find no difference in the viewing context, and can begin where he left off. The same website is presented in an optimized layout regardless of which device he is using to access it.
As a startup this is a tremendous benefit as it allows your online presence to be in front of your consumers all the time. Remember, your customers have web intelligence and notoriously short attention spans while browsing the web. Coupled with the fact that they have a lot of choices on offer you have a scenario in which staying on top of your customer’s mind space is a tough ask. Responsive web design is just one of the ways that ensures you don’t lose out in the battle for this mind space.
7. Helps your embrace the One Web Approach
We keep talking about mobile web, desktop web etc. and start thinking of the World Wide Web divided into different categories depending on the device it is accessed from. But, in reality there is just One Web. Don’t complicate things for yourself and your startup by designing websites for different webs. Things can get even more complicated if your startup’s online presence acts as a single window for knowing more about its products and services and buying them. You don’t want to be caught in situation wherein your product inventory is not updated in real time, or your product results in SERPs falter because of incorrect listings.
Responsive web design helps you create, maintain and market an online identity that helps your startup leverage the immense potential of One Web.
Responsive web design is definitely the future of the web and startups who want to maximize their use of technology to generate strategic business growth and increase revenue, cannot afford to ignore it. They do so at their own profile. But here’s the thing; it really doesn’t require a huge amount of investment to get a responsive website designed, developed and up and running. So, why not try it out.
Manish Dudharejia is the Co-Founder of OnlyDesign, a creative design agency. He is also responsible for managing day-to-day operations at E2M Solutions, a full service digital marketing agency. You can get in touch with him by email.