Redesigning Your Company Website for a Myriad of Devices With RWD

Robert HoldemanWebsite Tips, Website Tools, Website Trends

Guaranteed: right this very minute, there are hundreds, if not thousands of people searching the web for just what you do, make or sell!

Assuming one or more of them actually get to your website, which is another whole conversation, what will they see?  If your site is not responsive in design, it depends on what type of device they are using – a pc or laptop you hope!  That was how your website was designed to be seen – on a desktop or laptop computer, possibly with an older, not too wide-screen monitor.

But, today’s computers come in many sizes, shapes and even forms. Most people use mobile devices like smart phones and tablets along with the more traditional.  Odds are they will see your site as a tiny image on their phone.  No problem, you say, they can enlarge it.  That is true, but now you’ve crossed over into the land of annoyance, as they have to scroll from side to side to read your well-thought-out copy and view photographs and images.  And there is no telling what will happen to your website’s menu, especially if you have one that performs an action upon just the rollover of a mouse – maybe a drop-down secondary page menu or a change of font color or image.

If your photos are large they may be optimized for desktop viewing, but is it true for other devices?  Probably not if you have not yet moved to a responsive web design (RWD), so they my take a long time to load on a smart phone.

Or does your site make use of Flash for displaying a set of rotating images or worse, your menu?  That will cost you, since Apple products are not Flash-compatible, so now your site is out in the no-man’s-land of the internet for many potential visitors and customers.

For years, we in the web design business have been quoting well known facts such as “a website visitor will decide within 5 seconds if they want to stay on your website or go on to the next one on the search results page”.  I would suggest that the time frame has dropped to perhaps 2-3 seconds with some of the people I see surfing the web on their smart phones.

As you contemplate the inevitable move of your company’s website into the Kingdom of the Responsive (building on that “land of annoyance” theme I started with above), you’ll want to keep some things in mind that will make life easier:

  • Try to limit your main, first level menu to 5-6 items.
  • Break down the homepage by element (topic, image, call-to-action, etc.) and determine what stays and what goes, either moved to another page or removed entirely.
  • When choosing photos keep in mind the space they will fill.  If the new design calls for a photo stretching across the entire site, you’ll need to choose photos that can be cropped at least twice as wide as they are tall.  Photos resize themselves in responsive web design, so always start with hi-resolution photos for best results.
  • Mobile websites used to be mainly text, but now images are used quite a bit.  Decide which images you really need to have and eliminate the rest from your mobile phone display.
  • Once you’ve decided which elements should stay and added any new ones you might want, envision them all stacked, one on top of the other.  That is how they will appear on your smart phone, scaled for screen-width and easily scrollable in the vertical, as we are used to.
  • Besides your main copy, write a short “About Us” to describe your business in 2 or 3 short sentences – more than a tagline, but not quite a 30 second elevator speech.  This is a nice thing to have in the site footer, on every page.

There is more to it, but this is a good place to start.  Your next step is to discuss your options with your web developer and start planning your new website!