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Non-Responsive Website vs. Responsive Website: What’s the Difference?

Aug 19, 2020 | marketing

Have you heard of the Samsung Galaxy Fold? If you haven’t, you’re a bit behind on the news as there’s already a second iteration on the way.

It’s a phone/tablet hybrid that allows you to switch between two screen sizes by folding and unfolding it. It’s the first of its kind, but considering how mobile flagships go, we’ll likely be seeing more of it soon.

What does this have to do with the responsiveness of a website?

Let’s dive in to see the difference between a responsive and non-responsive website below.

Non-Responsive vs Responsive Websites

In the beginning of the internet, a non-responsive website was all that the people knew. You finalise a design, and that’s what would show through everybody’s screens. There weren’t many problems with this, considering most people would access the internet through computers with similar screen sizes.

With the advent of mobile devices, however, a one-for-all design became impractical. Smaller screens had trouble displaying all the elements on a page in their true scale. This meant browsing the internet was more or less painful for early users.

Then came the idea to put in place a mobile version of a website, which featured an “m” in front of the URL. “www.website.com” would become “m.website.com.”

This method provided a solution for some time, but it wasn’t perfect. The release of hundreds of new devices with differing screen sizes pointed out a major flaw.

Was it feasible for a business to release several versions of a website to accommodate all these? Of course, not.

Hence, the birth of responsive web design.

What Is Responsive Design?

A responsive website uses only one design for all types of screens. That means you don’t have to create different versions of your website for it to show correctly through everyone’s screens, whatever device they may be using.

That doesn’t mean that what you see on your computer will be the same as what’s on your mobile phone. It will be different, but it’s not a whole separate website.

If you look at the URL, you’ll notice it’s still the same. Note that the codes are also the same – only the display adjusts to the user.

The secret is that the design “responded” to your device needs so that it fits your screen. You may notice some changes to the mobile version.

You’ll see a more linear design, so you only have to scroll down or up. There are missing sidebars and menus replaced by a drop-down navigational panel. The images and videos should also have a perfect fit.

Responsive web design handles these changes. It adapts to the resolution, orientation, and scripting abilities. As a result, a website will look proper no matter what device you’re using.

Do You Have a Responsive or Non-Responsive Website?

You aren’t sure if you’re using a responsive web design? There are two ways to test it.

One way is to check for yourself. Grab your laptop and mobile phone and load your site on each one. Alternatively, you can use an online tool that displays how your website looks on different devices.

If it looks okay on mobile without an element out of place, you have a responsive web design. If some elements aren’t aligned – don’t fret. You may still have a responsive design, but it has lousy coding. The website designer didn’t do a good job then.

Another way is to test it through online tools. Google has a “Mobile-Friendly Test” that checks how mobile-optimised your website is. It even informs you of any issues it finds while assessing it.

How Does It Help Your Website and Business

Why do you need a responsive design, anyway? It sounds pretty neat, but how does it matter to your business?

It helps both your website and business in different ways, such as the following:

Display Media

Images and videos are an essential part of a webpage. They add value to the content, break up walls of text, give context, improve user engagement, and may provide more information to the users.

For that reason, they should be responsive, as well. If they stick to one size, they can have a drastic effect on the user experience.

Any media can break your layout, and they affect the loading times, too. A desktop might load a large image without a hitch, but it can spell a problem on a mobile phone.

Responsive design takes care of those problems. It will have rules in the CSS that will dictate what happens to the image when viewed in different settings.

User Experience

You don’t only have to convince users to go to your site; you also have to convince them to stay or come back another time. A non-optimised website is a surefire way to turn away visitors forever. It leaves a negative impression on the users as it looks unprofessional.

A functional website with smooth navigation and seamless elements provides the best experience. Your visitors can find what they’re looking for without much trouble.

They don’t need to zoom or scroll to the sides to view an image or another element. This makes your content much easier to see, creating an all-around positive experience.

Mobile Users

By 2025, around three-quarters of internet users will access the web via a mobile phone. That works out to 3.7 billion people.

Even today, the majority of internet users use a mobile device as opposed to a desktop or laptop. 51% of the global base are smartphone users.

What does this mean for you? If it’s yet unclear, that means you should already be catering to these users.

A non-responsive website will lose the majority of internet users to mobile-optimised websites. You’ll have less audience because the number of people using their desktop is declining.

Adopting a responsive design now allows you to cater to the current demand. At the same time, you future-proof your website, too.

SEO

The statistics above aren’t a new thing for search engines. It was way back in 2018 that Google started its mobile-first indexing of the web. This gives priority to mobile-responsive websites.

Why? The answer’s simple — it only wants the best experience for its users, which happens to be mostly on mobile. Google wants to show them websites that will give them the best experience.

That means websites with a responsive design are more likely to rank high in the search results.

This is a direct way responsiveness affects your site’s rankings, but there’s an indirect way also. Google picks up the user’s habits on your site. Do they like it and stay, or do they leave right away?

Those are factors on your rankings, too. People staying on the page and your site tell Google that they have a positive experience. On the contrary, a high bounce rate tells Google your content isn’t worth checking out.

Another way a responsive design affects your website SEO is via the page loading speed. If the elements aren’t optimised or responsive, it takes a longer time to load on smaller devices. This harms your rankings.

Web Management

Managing one website is hard enough; can you imagine managing two or more?

Your web management team will have to juggle different versions of your site all the time. Every time you need to update even one detail, you have to make sure you do the same for all the other versions.

If you need to revamp the look of your website, the mobile version needs an overhaul, too. In time, this will prove to be too time-consuming.

Keeping track of which is which can be stressful and might even hurt your brand authority. When posting an update on social media, for instance, should link to the mobile site or not? Are you sure you didn’t make a mistake and linked to the mobile version instead?

Now, think of how many links you’ve made. Are all them linking to the right version?

Responsive design eliminates doubts like this. You only have to remember one web address.

Cost-Effective

Managing only one website also means you get to save. Although a quality responsive website might cost you more, it’s more efficient in the long run.

Refreshing one website costs less than updating two or more. Hiring a web manager also costs less when there’s only one website to maintain.

You’ll save on time, too. If you need to do any update, you only have to access one website. It won’t take up any more of your time, so you can go back to other important matters right away.

How Do You Make a Website Responsive?

We’ve learned so far that every website must adopt a responsive design now and not any later. But, how do you make a website responsive anyway? That’s a technical subject, but we’ll give a brief overview of how it works.

A Fluid Grid

Ask any long-time web designer, and they’ll tell you about how websites used pixels for measurements in the recent past. That’s not the case anymore as they have started adopting a fluid grid.

This measures a page’s elements proportional to the grid, so they’re not in one size. The size of the actual file doesn’t matter as much in this type of measurement.

This allows the elements to respond to the size of the grid (the screen). They scale along with the grid. You can also set other rules for your grid.

Optimising Images

We’ve talked about sizing elements on the grid, but it isn’t as easy as it sounds. Sizing images and media is especially challenging. You need to decide how you want them to act according to the size of the screen.

For instance, if you want an image to scale down or up, you have to set its width and height. You also have to decide if you want some restrictions on its size, such as a max-width — in pixels or not.

Accounting for Touchscreens

A responsive website adjusts not only to the screen but to the whole device. A user with a mobile phone has a touchscreen, so your website must adjust to that, as well.

You must pay attention to all the elements on your site for a good mobile experience. Are they easy to click for people using their fingers as pointers rather than a computer mouse? Consider the users with big thumbs; your design must be accessible for everyone.

That means you don’t rely on your website’s CSS alone. You must configure the elements manually.

That may mean making the text bars on your form a little bigger to make it easier for all users to click using their fingers. Or you may also see if all the buttons on your site have a good size.

Planning for the Page Elements

You have to plan for the other elements, too, not only the ones the users need to click. You have to set rules for every element on your page to dictate how each of them will reach to different screen sizes.

Having a responsive web design doesn’t mean all the page elements should appear on all types of devices. You can condense them instead, or you can leave them out.

Take the menu bar we gave as an example earlier. Even when condensed, it might still take up too much space on a small screen. A better solution would be to replace it with a button, which will then show the menu options once pressed.

You have to do this type of planning with every element on a single page.

Adopt a Responsive Design for Your Website Now

If you still have a non-responsive website, it’s about time you switch to a responsive design. Most of your competitors are on it, so make sure you’re not falling behind.

Are you looking for experts to help build a responsive website? Look no further, we’re here to help! Contact us today so we can help your website look good on both screen sizes of any phone/tablet hybrids to come.

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