Think about your favorite websites that you visit on your smartphone or tablet. Like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, you’ll notice that the text and images always seem to be “just right.” Occasionally though, you get frustrated because a website will not look “just right.” Instead, it feels like you’re in a helicopter looking at the website from high up in the air. The website may have small text that is unreadable and images that are too small to see. You must zoom in a lot to read anything, move the webpages right and left with your finger as you read them, and struggle to perform normal functions on the website such as online payments—if they even work at all.
The “just right” websites aren’t a coincidence. They are built to be “responsive”—meaning they automatically adapt text and image size to the type of device. Non-responsive websites do not adapt this way, leaving them easy to read on a desktop or laptop but potentially frustrating to view and read on a smartphone or tablet.
“What’s the big deal?” you might think when considering your municipal website. “Why do I need to bother with a responsive design?” It’s actually a very big deal. Let’s review why.
1. A responsive design is mobile-friendly.
Slightly more than half of web traffic in the United States takes place through a mobile device. While a lot of people still use desktops and laptops to look at your website, many will look at it through a mobile device. If your website looks terrible, proves unreadable, and lacks functionality on mobile devices, you are losing a lot of your audience who are attempting to engage or learn about your town or city.
With a responsive design, your website will look good on mobile. People will be able to easily read your content and access functionality such as online payments. As more and more people use mobile devices for internet browsing, you want to be seen—clearly, professionally, and functionally—on those devices.
2. A responsive design helps you meet accessibility standards.
We encourage you to read our article, “How Applying Web Accessibility Standards Leads to Mobile Accessibility,” which goes into more detail about making your website appear more accessibly to people on mobile devices. Think about people with vision problems or difficulties related to their motor skills. Responsive design helps those individuals see text and images clearly and interact with your website more effectively. If you don’t have responsive design, you are making it difficult or impossible for visually- and motor-challenged people to interact with your website—and you won’t be meeting accessibility standards (which could open you up to lawsuits).
3. Lack of responsive design penalizes you on search engines.
Google, the most used search engine, penalizes websites that do not use responsive design. Yes, they even penalize you for desktop and laptop searches, not just mobile searches. If your website doesn’t use responsive design, that means people are less likely to find it when searching for your municipality. Would you rather that Wikipedia, generic “city data” websites, media stories, state, or other organization websites tell your story and give that first impression about your municipality instead?
You want your website to appear high in search results when people research your municipality so that you can offer up your information as a primary resource. A responsive design follows website best practices and Google will reward you with a higher placement in search engine results.
4. A responsive designed website looks fresher and more modern.
While we’re ranking this benefit as the least important of the four we’ve listed, it’s still quite important. If your website looks awful on mobile devices, it’s not giving a fresh, modern impression to a web visitor. They may make quick judgments about your town or city—out-of-touch, obsolete, behind the times. If not responsively designed, it’s likely your website is old and looks dated.
The good news is that modernizing your website can be relatively inexpensive and include responsive design. With responsive design, your website can look appealing to web visitors on a mobile device—and they will recognize, subtly, that you’re keeping up with the times.
If your website lacks responsive design, then consider modernizing your website. Municipalities can create relatively inexpensive, custom, responsive designs that look great, meet accessibility requirements, adapt well to mobile devices, and place you higher up on search engine results.
Need help with your responsive design next steps? Reach out to us today.
Original Date: 8/12/2020