I remember visiting my first website in 1996. I was taking a computer skills class and part of the class was teaching students about using email and visiting websites, since both were fairly new.
There was a fair amount of anticipation as the page slowly loaded to show the home page for the now defunct search engine, Alta Vista. Our assignment was to search for and find a website that interested us. Being a fan of “The Simpsons,” I typed in “Fox Television” and visited fox.com. Thanks to the Way Back Machine, you can see what the site looked liked 19 years ago.
I remember being amazed at that website - even though it was mostly just graphics and not that much actual content.
But that was the Stone-Age internet. When companies bought domains and planted a flag to control a small corner of the web.
Now, websites are not about just staking a claim in cyberspace, but creating an experience. You have to do more to engage with your audience and compete with other businesses. Sites with static images and messages just don’t work. Your site needs to be a portal to your business and must be able to handle visits from desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones.
A mobile site is great for the smaller smartphones, using the space available to create a consistent and strong message from your brand. As smartphones are built bigger and tablets become more popular and more capable of showcasing websites, using responsive website design is the next step in your online evolution.
A responsive website is a website that is built with multiple fluid grid layouts instead of multiple fixed width layouts. Translation from geek speak? Your website adapts to the screen size it’s being viewed on. No longer will you have to scroll from left to right if your screen isn’t wide enough. Gone are the days when your website structure is set in stone.
Responsive websites offer you the opportunity to have a website that looks standard on your desktop web browser and then as that browser shrinks (either you make the window smaller or view it on a tablet or smartphone), the content is ranked and positioned by the importance you have set it at. The design actually moves to fit the space provided.
What makes responsive websites so desirable is that users have similar experiences when interfacing with them. Some content may be jostled during a readjustment in screen size, but all of the information is there. The pictures are there. The sidebars are available. It’s a layout that may differ slightly, but still remains recognizable.
There are plenty of reasons for a responsive web design, but it comes with the caveat that the file size of these websites can be massive. This means it may take longer to upload the content to phones that may not have a strong signal. I just want to emphasize that this is not a statement that should stop you from building a responsive site - just a statement that you might want to think about while deciding your mobile site strategy.
A responsive website isn’t just another web fad. As more and more people use tablets and smartphones to engage with websites, responsive websites are the best resource available to business owners. But, don’t panic if you don’t have one, because you are in good company. According to research done by Akamai - only 11% of the top 100 websites use responsive web design. Everyone, including some of the biggest companies in the world, is currently working on ways to make their web presence as robust and engaging as possible.
This is your opportunity to upgrade your web presence in a way that is being ignored by over 80% of the top 10,000 websites. Be the first business in your community to wow people with a cutting edge 21st century web design. Become a leader in your local digital revolution.
Nick Pizzolato is the Marketing Content Manager at Wicked Local Media Solutions. For questions, topics for future blogs, or to share your favorite moment from the film “Back to the Future,” email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Have an idea for a future "Learning the Lingo" article? Tweet @wlmediasolution and use #LearningTheLingo.