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Is website design part of your audience development program? A well-executed redesign can be a great adjunct to a social media push or a new content marketing strategy.

Besides, if nobody redesigned their websites, we'd still be looking at the retina-burning flash animations that induced headaches throughout the late 1990s. You may have heard the term "responsive design" and wondered whether it should be part of your site redesign. Here's some information to help you decide.

What Is Responsive Web Design?

Responsive design requires a greater initial time investment, so you have to consider your ROI.
Responsive design requires a greater initial time investment, so you have to consider your ROI.

Responsive web design uses something called media queries to determine the resolution of the device a site is being displayed on. Fluid grids and flexible images then resize themselves to fit correctly onto the screen. With responsive design, if a browser window is shrunk, for example, the images and content shrink too.

Responsive design also includes elements of adaptive design, which changes site behavior based on device. For example, swiping may be enabled if a site is displayed on a phone. With responsive design, you build your site once, and it works on all different types of screens, from desktops to laptops to tablets to phones.

Advantages of Responsive Design

The biggest advantage of responsive design is that it works seamlessly on any screen size on any device, making the site more usable overall. With only one version of your site, you make sharing of content more effective, because the content shared from the mobile version of your website looks fine on the recipient's desktop screen too.

The fact that your site exists on one URL rather than a separate mobile subdomain can help with your SEO efforts. According to Google, ''We wouldn't need to crawl a page with the different Googlebot user agents to retrieve and index all the content." Furthermore, content duplication (and its possible SEO disadvantages) between your main site and your mobile site isn't an issue with responsive design.

With responsive web design, future modifications are easier. If you were to have different site versions for different screen sizes, each redesign would have to address all those versions. But with responsive design, you modify the site design, and modifications are carried across to all platforms.

Disadvantages of Responsive Design

The main disadvantage of using responsive design is that it requires a bigger investment in initial development. It also requires pre-development determination of how pages should be displayed across the many different screen sizes and devices. Responsive design is generally more complex and will require more testing before you take it live.

Many trade professionals access relevant content with tablets and phones.
Many trade professionals access relevant content with tablets and phones.

Also bear in mind that responsive design isn't the solution to all web design problems. It won't necessarily work well for all users unless you do a lot of planning and testing, so you have to consider not only how the site looks on all devices, but whether it's usable on them, particularly if you do a lot of ecommerce with mobile users, who may find shopping difficult without mobile-friendly interaction.

Finally, if you go with interactive design, you should understand the potential for increased page load times, which can turn off visitors. Slow page loading can also affect your SEO, so you have to incorporate design elements to optimize speed and decrease page load times.

Should You Create an App Instead?

There are several important points to consider if you're deciding between responsive design and creating a mobile app. This decision should be based on your organizational needs and what your current website is used for. Native apps usually have a special purpose or are designed for a particular type of interaction, and that may be exactly what your site requires. But if your main goal is to display your current website on all devices, then responsive design is probably the way to go. You can always create an app later should needs dictate.

If your organization's audience and revenue development plan includes website redesign, consider responsive web design as an alternative to creation of a separate mobile site. Responsive design helps keep your SEO efforts on track, and makes your site usable on the many devices people now use for accessing content. If you're interested in a custom job board for your trade website, RealMatch offers recruitment advertising for trade publishers that is mobile friendly and helps with your audience development as well as having potential as a strong revenue stream.

Photo Credits: Naypong / freedigitalphotos.net, stockimages / freedigitalphotos.net

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