Statistics show the average time spent daily on the phone has increased in recent years, reaching a total of 4 hours and 23 minutes as of April 2021. That number is expected to grow further and reach around 4 hours and 35 minutes by 2023.
What’s more, more than half of all website traffic comes from mobile devices, which is not surprising considering that in the UK alone, over four-fifths of time spent online is now spent on mobile devices.
If you’re launching a new website, the question isn’t, “Will my visitors access my site using mobile devices as well as desktop displays?” Instead, it’s, “What do I need to do to make my site accessible to mobile users?”
To understand how you can best support these mobile users, we’ll break down what it takes to make a site mobile-accessible, discuss why responsive web design is important, and how you can achieve mobile usability on the WordPress platform.
What is responsive web design? Let’s get down to the basics to answer that question.
The term was first coined by Ethan Marcotte way back in 2012. It refers to a website that has been HTML coded to create fluid layouts or fluid grids that can react to any change in viewport or screen width.
Designing a responsive website should provide the same experience on mobile devices as it does on desktop devices. Your visitors shouldn’t have any difficulties navigating the website, reading the content, or interacting with different elements just because they’re using a mobile device.
Responsive web design is also referred to as adaptive design, but the two terms are different.
Adaptive design means websites usually have several responsive layout designs coded with specific breakpoints that work with different screen sizes. That allows the website to adapt to a new situation quickly.
Another reason why responsive web design is important relates to the mobile-friendliness of websites. Just because a webpage is responsive doesn’t mean it’s also mobile-friendly.
A mobile-friendly website is not only responsive but also ensures the following conditions are met:
- Buttons are big enough to be easily pressed on smaller screens but don’t extend over the allowable screen size
- Images scale nicely and don’t appear cut off
- Form fields trigger the correct input methods
- Form fields can easily be filled out on smaller screens
- Email opt-in forms display nicely and don’t block important content
- Social sharing buttons aren’t taking up the majority of the screen
Meeting these conditions also yield the following benefits:
- Provides website visitors with a better user experience.
- More and more visitors use their phones to surf the web, so it caters to their needs.
- Responsive web design and mobile-friendliness are ranking factors in SEO.
- Allows you to attract a wider audience since visitors will use various devices to access your website.
- Better user experience can lead to higher conversion rates and lower bounce rates.
You can’t answer the question of what is responsive web design without also discussing how when mobile usability came to prominence in the late 2000s, marketers had fewer options to choose from when creating mobile-accessible sites.
One option was to create an entirely separate site — typically, something that would be built using a tool like bMobilized or DudaMobile and hosted on a mobile-specific subdomain (as in, “http://m.yoursite.com”).
Mobile sites often looked completely different than their desktop predecessors, as they were built to showcase the information — such as location, hours, and specials — web developers felt would most interest mobile audiences.
There are two downsides to that approach that have challenged its adoption in recent years. The first is the fact that as our smartphone usage has expanded, users no longer want to see a pared-down version of a site’s content on a mobile device (at least, they don’t universally).
They want to engage fully with your content, and they can’t do that if they constantly have to flip between your desktop and mobile device sizes.
The second and larger consideration is the SEO impact of using separate mobile sites. Standalone mobile sites must be correctly mapped to desktop versions using rel=”canonical” and rel=”alternate” tags.
Get this wrong, and you could see your search rankings fall due to indexing challenges and duplicate content issues.
With responsive design, you don’t have to worry about developing two separate versions of your website. That means there’s no need to map the desktop version and mobile version or worry about duplicate content issues.
There’s also less maintenance involved when you have a single responsive website. Lastly, it will be easier to track your analytics since you don’t have to track a visitor’s journey through multiple conversion paths.
With mobile phone usage on the rise, you might be tempted to opt for a mobile app instead of figuring out what responsive web design is and how you might use it. However, not all websites need an app.
More specifically, a mobile app is needed when your users need a specific set of features and functionality that would work better in an app.
Common examples include mobile banking apps. Otherwise, if you have an online store or are a service provider, a responsive website is more than enough to cater to your visitors’ needs.
WordPress is a Content Management System (CMS) that needs a theme to work properly. Thanks to numerous WordPress themes, you can easily make your website responsive.
Themes that adhere to responsive design principles have been available since 2011, and the most reputable, well-known themes are responsive out of the box.
When making your WordPress website responsive, you have three choices to follow responsive design best practices. Let’s take a look at those choices more in-depth below.
As mentioned earlier, there are plenty of WordPress themes that are responsive out of the box. One of the easiest methods is to simply install a responsive theme such as Astra or OceanWP on your WordPress website.
Because responsive design has become so popular, you’ll find that most WordPress themes claim to be responsive. But don’t just take their word for it. Instead, read reviews of the theme if they’re available.
Did any past users mention issues regarding the theme’s ability to operate responsively? If so, you may wind up facing the same problems yourself once you’ve installed the theme.
And speaking of installation, once your new “responsive” theme is active, test it on as many devices as you can (or use the Google Mobile-Friendly Test) to ensure it’s operating the way you expected.
If you’re a developer, you can code your WordPress theme with the responsive specifications you require.
But if you aren’t an experienced coder and you have a static WordPress site you’d like to transform to be fully responsive, you may still be able to do so using the tutorial published by Torque.
To summarize the process covered in greater detail on Torque’s site, re-coding your static WordPress site to become responsive involves several steps:
- Defining the default zoom.
- Setting fluid image widths and heights.
- Resizing images.
- Implementing breakpoints.
- Creating a mobile menu.
- Adapting fonts.
Whenever you’re making changes to your site’s code, remember to fully back up your current website before beginning. That way, you can revert to if you make any mistakes throughout the process.
Another option is to use a website builder like the Bluehost Website Builder. Out of the three options mentioned here, this option is best if you’re a website owner who doesn’t have time to learn coding or the resources to hire a developer.
Website builders like Bluehost’s Website Builder make it easy to create a beautiful website without a single line of code. All you have to do is use a simple drag and drop interface to get the job done.
You get complete control over how your website looks with the power of WordPress behind it, so you can rest assured your website can grow and evolve as your business continues to expand.
As you start making your website responsive, remember that adding a lot of CSS media queries, along with various image sizes, can impact your site’s performance. As such, there are a few important considerations to keep in mind:
- The screen resolutions should be detected automatically by the browser so it can display the correct image size.
- Use media queries and conditionally load assets so that the browser window loads only what’s necessary.
- Use lazy loading for responsive images and other assets.
Responsive web design is not a luxury. Nowadays, it’s a necessity.
Here’s the good news — you don’t have to hire a developer or learn how to code to make your WordPress website responsive.
With the help of Bluehost Website Builder, you can easily create an attractive website for your business and ensure it looks good no matter the screen size.
Now that you fully know what responsive web design is, make it possible by checking the Website Builder Plans we have to offer. Create your unique, responsive website today.