Redeveloping Your Website: Responsive

The statistics paint a clear picture. According to Ofcom, 57% of adults in the UK were browsing the internet on their mobile phone in 2014, up from 49% in the previous year
B2B businesses should really take note, as Search Engine Watch reported last year that 92% of executives have a smartphone for business use.

With smartphone handsets now as cheap as £20 and tablets becoming a popular alternative to laptops and desktop computers, it’s no surprise that the world is truly going mobile. In fact, many are predicting that mobile could even eclipse desktop within the next couple of years and your website needs to be able to respond to this. For this reason, RESPONSIVE is our first key point, as this is one the largest waves creating that high-water mark, one of the three main reasons why now is the time to get your website into fighting shape.

 

In the past, many companies, predominantly those with large websites, would create an additional site in parallel to load on mobile devices. Those are the ones with ‘m.’ at the front rather than ‘www.’ and those with really large sites, like the BBC and Facebook still use this option. But they can afford the time and effort it takes to design and run two websites at the same time. Obviously, not all businesses are so blessed but there is now a great solution

Responsive websites do exactly what the term suggests: they respond, to whatever type of device the website is being viewed on. An unresponsive website will appear on a mobile device as it would on a desktop computer, however due to much smaller screen sizes, it can be awkward to view and navigate. Often users will be zooming in and out to read text and images may not resize for the screen, so it’s not very user friendly.

Being responsive makes sites much more user friendly by prioritising page content so that the user only sees the most important stuff, with navigation menus sometimes being tucked away but never hard to find. Mobile phones are generally not as powerful as computers so simplified layouts and content allows for pages to load faster, whilst using less data – something that is important for mobile users.

 

Coding

Having an unresponsive website is an example of how poor or outdated coding can have a negative impact on a site but there are many other issues. We’ll mention a few of the main issues here just so you’re aware.

 

Bad Redirects

When redeveloping your website, new pages will be created, and most businesses want also to keep content from their old site. While transferring this content or pages across to the new website, a developer must make sure that links to the old pages are redirected to the new site, otherwise an error will occur. Many developers try to keep the URLs the same in order not to lose the initial links, but this isn’t always viable, especially if part of the redevelopment includes making the site’s page structure better.

 

Internal Links

• Relative

Web developers can build the structure of links within a website using two different types of URLs, ‘relative’ and ‘absolute’, and this can cause some confusion and therefore errors. To save time, internal structures are often built up of relative links. These are links relative to a certain directory, which means that the link will simply add, for example, ‘/blog’ to the URL in order to reach the blog page. Because this method works practically by means of affixation, or simply the adding of text onto the end of the URL, it can only go further into the directory, say that of the blog. Errors can begin to occur when linking externally or to another page or directory. For example, if you clicked on ‘/contact’ from a ‘/blog’ page and the link was relative, it might not work, because the ‘/contact’ page would probably not be within the ‘/blog’ directory. Here you would need an absolute link.

Although relative links are still used by some developers, many have deemed them a bad idea and chosen to use absolute links as the sole means of linking their sites.

• Absolute

Absolute links link to a determined URL and that URL only, so it is a bit more clear cut than adding an extension on to the link. These must always be used for external links are often used by developers for ALL links on a site. Problems here can occur when building a new site, if old pages are copied across and links aren’t redirected to the new site, just like with bad redirects.

 

Load Time

Nobody likes waiting for websites to load and no business wants to annoy their audience by making them wait, therefore, it is important that your websites doesn’t take too long to load its content. There can be quite a few causes of slow loading, so we’ll just talk about some of the most common.

Firstly, the code itself can slow websites down if it is overly complex, so a developer should be writing code in as simple a way as possible. Next is the page’s content. Any large files are going to slow the page down somewhat. The biggest offenders tend to be animations and overuse thereof, Flash, as well as high resolution images and videos. It is becoming increasingly important to monitor these factors as it will have a particularly negative effect on mobile users, as these devices often aren’t as powerful desktop devices.

 

Robots.txt

This is a kind of file which is used so that webmasters can tell search engines which files and directories within the site can be crawled and, therefore, displayed in search results. Pages are usually disallowed during the development stage so that crawlers don’t index incomplete content. Errors loading the site can occur if pages aren’t properly allowed upon completion of the site.

There are also privacy issues to consider. If directories which should be private, such as admin points and personal profiles, are not disallowed in the robots.txt file, they may be crawled by search engines and open for anyone to see – a huge problem when considering data protection laws.

 

Browser Compliance

There is a range of popular web browsers and your website should be compatible with each one. There is Windows Explorer and Safari, the default browsers on Microsoft and Mac computers respectively, as well other favourite like Google Chrome and Firefox. Although they are essentially the same, there are slight discrepancies, meaning that the developer must make sure to test the site on each browser, as there are some common errors that can occur. It’s all about making your website as user friendly as possible and coming across professionally by having a consistent website.

 

The User Journey

It is important to think of your audience’s journey from entering your website to completing goals and thus fulfilling the purpose of the site. These are the core principles we refuse to shut up about. Mapping and testing the user journey can help pinpoint dead ends and show you the quickest and easiest way for the audience to reach their goal, meaning you can refine the design and structure of your site accordingly.

But how do you get people to your site in the first place?  I will move onto this point in next Friday’s post.
Hope you have a brilliant weekend – fingers crossed for sunshine!!

Es. 🙂

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The other topics in this series:

Part 6: 6 Redeveloping Your Website: The Design
Part 5: Redeveloping Your Website: Template vs. Bespoke
Part 4: Redeveloping Your Website: Building Your Site
Part 3: Redeveloping Your Website: Know Your Audience
Part 2: Redeveloping Your Website: Start with Purpose
Part 1: An Introduction to Redeveloping Your Website

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