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People sat on the floor looking at responsive website design on a tablet

Times have changed, until fairly recently a responsive website was considered as something that’s ‘good to have’. I’m going to tell you a short story about a recent experience of mine that proves that a responsive website is now essential, and why.

What is a responsive website?

Before we dive into why a responsive website is so important, let’s have a quick look at what a responsive website actually is.

The term ‘responsive’ comes from the fact that the website ‘responds’ to the size of the screen it is being displayed on.

Diagram illustrating how responsive website design works

In the example shown above a section of a website, on a desktop computer, has 3 columns. These columns consist of 1 image and 2 columns of text, all next to each other.

On a desktop computer (left), these are displayed side by side and that looks perfect. On a tablet (middle), if we had all 3 side-by-side they would be a bit small and Look squashed. In this case, we may decide to have the image at the top and the 2 columns of text side-by-side underneath. On a mobile (right), which is much narrower, we would normally choose to put everything in 1 column, with the image at the top and the 2 sections of text underneath. This is a quick, basic example of the process that goes into creating a responsive site.

Simply put, a responsive website, is a website that has been created in a way so that whatever device it’s viewed on, the website works. Ideally, the website should not only just work, it should be visually appealing and offer a great user experience. 

A recent experience

Last week I was trying to buy something on line. It was evening and I was sat on the sofa with my wife. I can’t remember what prompted it but I decided that I wanted to grow some goliath sunflowers in the back garden. I grabbed my phone from the coffee table and began the search for some goliath sunflower seeds.

After looking through the Google results a bit the first website that I landed on was terrible, it was all over the place. There was content that didn’t fit on the screen, the layout didn’t make sense, the menu was clunky, and to be honest, it was just butt ugly. After no more that 10 seconds I hit the back button, was back to the search results, and clicked onto the next website.

The next website I visited was better, I easily found the seeds I was looking for, read some information, dropped them in the basket, and bought them. I also bought some plant food along with some chilli, basil, coriander, rosemary, and rocket seeds, while I was at it.

So, why on earth have I just told you about my recent seed buying experience? Let’s break this down and see what it means.

It's just business

Writing about this now, I do feel a bit sorry for the company of the first website I visited. They might have had an equally good product, at a similar price. They might be great people who are passionate about their business. The problem is they let themselves down by offering a poor experience to a potential customer.

In my opinion, the days of being able to forgive a company for providing a poor mobile experience have passed. There are so many great companies out there that present themselves well and care about the experience of the user. People are well aware of this, it’s all too easy to hit the back button and look for a better alternative.

- Lost business

The first thing to take from the story above is that the business that operates the first website, straight-up, lost a sale. Had the site been reasonably usable there is no question about it, I would have made my purchase there, and not moved onto the next site.

While I only spent about £20, I am only one person. Imagine, if in a month, 500 other people did the same. That would be £10,000 of lost revenue in one month, or £120,000 in a year!

- Future loss

Now, the above is bad enough, but this really is the sting in the tail! The company I ended up buying the seeds from added me to their mailing list. I’m fine with this and have no problem receiving offers from companies I’ve bought something from, or may wish to buy from again. What this really means though, is that next year, I will probably buy my seeds from this company again. And probably the year after that, and after that too.

People become loyal to businesses and there is good reason for that. The service I received was good, the price was good, I received my seeds in good time, it was well packaged, and the product was good. I know that next time I want something for the garden if I buy it from there I’ll more than likely receive the same good service.

So to sum up the point here, the first business not only lost my custom, they lost the opportunity for all future custom that would have come their way. This is what we call looking at the ‘lifetime value’ of a customer.

- Extra sales

As I mentioned above, my reason for visiting the site was to try and find some Goliath sunflower seeds. I not only bought the seeds but I ended up buying several other things as well. If the site had been a pain to use, or wasn’t well laid out, would I have bought those extra items? Probably not!

A responsive website that provides the user with a good experience can bring in more sales, it’s as simple as that.

- Business image

Finally, let’s have a look at what the responsive experience of a website says about the business itself. As mentioned above, people’s tolerance for a poor responsive experience has decreased to the point where they just won’t bother with a poorly designed website anymore.

A business website is like a digital shopfront. It’s what people use to make decisions on whether they should trust the business. They form an opinion of what the quality of the product or service will be like. In an instant, they determine for themselves what kind of service they will receive. A poorly designed experience is really not going to help with any of the above. On the flip side, if someone has a great experience when visiting a website, the opinions they form can only be good!

Some final thoughts

In this day and age people expect to be able to have a good shopping experience on their mobile devices. Those that provide it will reap the rewards.

It’s not just all about e-commerce though, all businesses should aim to offer a great mobile experience. When a potential customer visits a business’s website, whether we like it or not, opinions will be formed. We just have to do our best to ensure those opinions are good ones!

Looking for a quality website?

Here at SquareMorph we take pride in creating quality, responsive websites, that offer a fantastic user experience. If you’d like to discuss how we can help then please get in touch for a friendly chat. Or, you can learn more about our web design services here.