One of the most popular buzz words floating around the website and SEO industry currently is the term “Responsive.” Responsive websites are sites that can adapt to different sizes of browsers on all the devices that browse the internet. Google recommends to webmasters to consider Responsive Web Design as their first option for making mobile-friendly sites and most web firms now include responsive web design as part of their core services. While its easy to recommend to everyone to have a responsive site, you should be aware of some of the many costs associated with responsive web design.

What does it cost to not have a Responsive Website?

First of all, with over a billion smartphone users and almost a third of them browsing exclusively from their phone, it is quite obvious that to maximize your chances of turning website visitors into customers, you need your site to function well on mobile devices. Site owners should be aware of their own site analytics and how many visitors are visiting the site from a mobile device. More than likely, there is already a significant portion of your traffic coming from a mobile device, and the percentage of users browsing from mobile devices will continue to increase at a rapid pace. No one wants to spend the time trying to zoom in, scroll, and navigate a site on their phone that isn’t mobile optimized.

responsive web design layout

It is true: there are other ways to have a mobile friendly presence online. One popular technique is to have a main website for desktop users and an app or mobile version of the site for mobile users. But will the mobile version of the website look good on all the other tablets and devices that people also browse from? Will people download another app? There are literally thousands of different devices that can browse the internet, and if you don’t have a responsive site, chances are that your site will look good on some devices but not on others.

Another major flaw of the app/mobile version technique is that with separate systems often come separate domains. This can hinder some SEO efforts, and possibly cause some  data integrity issues. With multiple systems, management of those systems becomes more burdensome, both for the site owners, and the developers. While this technique may be slightly cheaper than a responsive site upfront, it has the potential to cost much more to maintain.

What does it cost to make my site responsive?

While there are many different ways to create a responsive site, there are a few facts to understand that apply in each scenario which will add to the cost of making your site responsive:

    1. It takes much more time to program than a Responsive web designtraditional website. Instead of creating styles, layout, and flow for 1 size of browser, the developer has to consider multiple sizes, configurations, and layouts. With a traditional website, a web programmer will test across all major browsers, but with a responsive website, they will test across all major browsers and browser sizes (which correspond to different devices).

 

    1. When programming a responsive site, a programmer will decide on “breakpoints” – that is at what size of browser to use one design or another. The sky is the limit to how many breakpoints and designs to define. Usually a responsive design will include at least 4 breakpoints: 1 for small phones, 1 for larger phones and smaller tablets, 1 for tablets, and 1 for desktops. If you really want your site to look the best for all the different devices, you can continue to add more breakpoints, which may add more time and cost.

 

    1. Will your site adapt functionality to different sizes? Depending on how your site was programmed, there may be features that aren’t able to be displayed at all sizes. Do you lose dynamic features altogether, or do you change the way the site functions for different devices?

 

  1. While having a separate mobile site has many drawbacks, one good thing about it is that you can “trim the fat.” In a responsive website, since you include all versions of the site in one set of code, there is potential for the file sizes of the webpage to be larger – this means more data transfer and slower loading times. Fortunately, as mobile technologies and plans from carriers evolve, these drawbacks do not have a large impact.

TL;DR

While it may cost significant money to get a well-programmed responsive website, the opportunity cost of not having a responsive website is even greater. If you want to have a real presence online, whether it is to sell products, entertain, or simply to provide information, your website should function well and look good on mobile devices. When all the costs are considered, the best way to achieve maximum conversions is by have a fully responsive (and in many cases adaptive) website.

Phil Sanders