Randy Winch

Mar 22, 2016 • 10 minute read

So You’ve Decided On A Responsive Redesign.
Here’s Why Agile Might Help.

In case you haven’t heard the hyped term “Responsive”, it’s the idea of designing a website to adjust to all screen sizes. Based on the results our clients are seeing, this trend of Responsive Web Design (RWD) will be sticking around for a while. At The1stMovement (T1M) we’ve seen tremendous results with implementing responsive design, particularly by paying attention to and implementing the considerations laid out below. Our responsive redesign of the DaVita Careers website, for example, saw an immediate increase in mobile and tablet users of 195%.

 

But some of our clients have been on the fence about converting to responsive—primarily because they aren't fully informed of the benefits and risks of redesigning their site. Some of the misconceptions we’ve seen include:

  • “We’ve got a mobile site, we don’t need responsive.”
  • “Responsive means two sites for the price of one, right?”
  • “We want responsive, but we want to stick with a traditional process to get there.”
  • “Our mobile numbers have risen, but not enough to justify a responsive redesign.”
  • “Our organization would require a shift in how it tracks analytics and search.”

Let's take a look at the benefits of switching to Responsive Design:

 

Optimizing User Experience

Today people can choose from hundreds of devices to access the internet, all of which have varying screen sizes, shapes, and capabilities. PC usage has decreased by over 20% since 2008 while mobile usage has increased. This is true for a number of reasons, starting with convenience and immediacy—people can search and access information no matter where they are. Not only is this usage behavior common, it's preferred. A Google survey in September 2012 showed:

  • More than 72% of consumers wanted mobile-friendly websites
  • 67% said they were more likely to buy if a site was mobile friendly
  • 61% said they’d leave a site without buying if it wasn’t

 

There are several other statistics that prove the value of mobile as it pertains to the future:

  • Over 100 million smartphones were sold in Q1 2013
  • Mobile Web growth has outpaced desktop Web growth by 8x
  • Global mobile data traffic should grow 26x over the next five years
  • Over 1 billion dollars have been spent on Amazon via mobile devices in the past year
  • 90% of people use multiple devices to accomplish the same task
  • 65% of Google searches happen from mobile, and tablets are the most common for shopping or trip planning

The risk of not optimizing for mobile and tablet is too high, even if purely from a user-experience perspective.

 

Consolidate Your Analytics and SEO

By consolidating your mobile and desktop sites, you will be able to track both sites from a single analytics interface. This allows you to segment and track results based on page dimensions (i.e. breakpoints, screen size, and orientation.) For example, if an important CTA moves from the top of the screen on desktop to the middle of the screen on mobile, you can note if it gets clicked less on smaller screens and then optimize based on that finding.

Responsive design also creates a more efficient and consolidated SEO strategy, as all of your content is localized in one single location. With a single site you have less duplicate content—a huge advantage since duplicate content can be flagged by search engines, decreasing your quality score and potentially even blacklisting your site so that it’s not listed at all. Having a single code base can also improve ranking for local keywords and increase organic search.

  • 88% of clicks on mobile search ads are incremental to organic clicks
  • Google, which owns 67% of the search engine market share, says Responsive is its recommended mobile configuration

 

Adjust Your Process

Due to the technical limitations of mobile devices, speed of data connections, and disparate size of screens, the industry has devised new methods of delivering performant sites responsively. We at T1M have also moved away from mobile-only sites to ensure content matches and code updates are handled universally across all devices.

We’ve also had to evolve our process to meet the increased performance demands and increased complexity of responsive sites. However, the adjustments we’ve made have not gelled well with the tried-and-true agency web processes—typically called waterfall. To design for responsive sites, the number of comps and wireframes increase substantially in waterfall, as does the likelihood that they may not work in development. At T1M, we’ve been evolving our approach to shed these problems through our new agile process by:

  • Collecting samples of content at the beginning of projects to make sure the site structure fits the site’s message
  • Ideating as teams of UX designers, web designers, and developers
  • Relying on interactive prototypes and lo-fi comps instead of high detail wireframes to maintain schedules
  • Moving away from fleshed-out comps to allow us to make modular refinements at a single point in the process—development

 

Take Action

We’ve found that moving to a responsive website almost always provides better return on investment: you’ll only need to maintain one code base and look at one set of analytics, and you’ll also see more natural search traffic, better user experiences and increased conversions.

But in order to plan for and implement a Responsive Redesign, you must be willing to embrace an Agile process that is much more collaborative than Waterfall and that may feel a bit new to you. Switching to Responsive has never been more essential. And finding an agency partner that understands the needs and best practices to get you there won’t hurt.