Responsive design really exploded in 2013.
But it wasn’t a here today, gone tomorrow trend: it’s here to stay, and it’s important for attorney websites. Responsive design has been the much-needed shift in how websites will be built for the foreseeable future as devices get smaller and more diverse than the traditional desktop. Here’s what you need to know about responsive design and why — if you don’t already have a responsive website — you need one now.
What is responsive design?
Responsive web design is the most modern approach to website design. Before the era of smartphones and tablets, web designers were only able to design sites for desktop and laptop computers that had known screen sizes and resolutions. It made sense at the time — with nothing other than those two options, why would you need anything other than a fixed layout that’s optimized for a desktop or laptop experience? Yet, with the use of smartphones and tablets on the rise — and with more people using them to browse the web than ever before — it became necessary for web content that was optimal for mobile devices.
How does responsive design work?
Responsive design works in that sites that make use of it are able to adjust to any screen size and resolution and are optimized for that particular device. The result is an optimal user experience for your website visitors, no matter where they’re browsing from. Here’s a good way to test if you have a responsive website: grab the corner of your browsing window and make the window smaller. If your site is responsive, you should still be able to see all the content and images clearly, just as you did in the larger window.
Can I make a non-responsive site responsive?
Responsive design is ideal for attorneys — all you’ll need is one site to give optimized content to website visitors using any device or screen size. And that’s important because data tells us that it’s likely that your next client will visit your law firm on the web from their smartphone. (I’ll talk about that more in just a moment.)
Unfortunately it’s not easy to start with a non-responsive site and decide that you’ll make it responsive. The choice to display your site with responsive design is one that needs to be decided on from day one, not a decision that’s made after the fact.
In fact, many designers start with mobile designs and work their way forward — the mobile-first approach. Technological progress has led to what’s described as “progressive enhancement” in which designers aim to impress web visitors starting at the smallest scale. Designers have more restrictions on what they can do, but knowing that from the get-go allows them to create a more aesthetically pleasing and better functioning product. As designers go from mobile to desktop, they end up improving upon what’s already a great site on the smaller scale. Everybody wins.
Do I really need a responsive site?
Absolutely. People are using mobile devices more than ever before. A recent study indicates that in the United States, desktop-based web browsing makes up less than half of the time people spend consuming digital media. The other 60 percent of the time is put toward mobile web surfing.
That’s not all. A mobile vs. desktop study we did a few years back offered some surprising results: we looked at 750,000 web visits across randomly-selected law firm websites in different regions, and we discovered that nearly 50 percent of visits came from mobile phones. Between that and the fact that nearly two-thirds of Americans own a smartphone now, having a responsive site is more important than ever before. Mobile-friendliness matters. If web visitors get frustrated with your site — especially if it’s not optimized for their device — they’re likely to go looking elsewhere.
Your potential clients aren’t the only ones who care about the mobile-friendliness of your website. Google has been busy focusing on mobile issues, too. In this year alone, it’s released its mobile-focused search guidelines, and it’s even had its now-retired Search Chief Amit Singhal complete a year of mobile-only search. Google clearly understands that mobile search is the way of the future for average consumers.
Most sites are mobile-friendly. Many of them use responsive design. And it’s not 2013 anymore — there’s no excuse for attorneys not to have a responsive website. Your potential clients that you’ll not only be able to answer their questions through the content that you write for your law firm’s website or blog, but that you’ll also have a website that makes it easy to find answers to their questions.
Responsive design is here to stay — but your clients may go elsewhere if your law firm’s website doesn’t make it as easy as possible for them to engage with you. We’re well past the point of being an early adopter of responsive design. Without a responsive website, you’ll be missing out on a number of potential clients that can boost your law firm’s business.