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Responsive Design: What Is It and Why Should it Matter to You?

Responsive Design

How many times has this happened to you? You grab your smartphone to check out a website. But once you get there, you realize it’s not mobile friendly. You zoom in and out on the text, pan around, scroll up and down and click on links that take forever to load.

Ever done that and given up in frustration? You’re not alone. A 2011 Compuware Corp. survey revealed that:

  • Almost half of all mobile device users won’t return to a website they had trouble accessing
  • 57 percent won’t recommend the site to others
  • 30 percent will go to a competitor’s site instead.

In short, usability is critical when it comes to the Web, particularly when you consider the explosive growth in the number of mobile device users. Provide those users with an optimal experience and you can create a powerful competitive advantage for your firm.

An emerging technique known as responsive design can help you do that — and offer a host of additional benefits.

One size fits all

What is responsive design? Without getting too technical, it’s a design approach that allows your law firm’s website to adapt and display the layout best suited for an individual user’s device. Smartphone visitors see a smartphone layout. Tablet users get a design optimized for tablet usage. Desktop users get a desktop version. The key is that all visitors use the same URL and view the same content — it’s simply presented in the most user-friendly fashion for each.

Seems logical, but it’s sharply different from the traditional approach to mobile sites. For years, the common practice has been to create a separate mobile version of a site with a slightly different URL. For example, if a firm’s primary URL is www.johndoelawfirm.com, the usual mobile equivalent will be m.johndoelawfirm.com. Mobile visitors are automatically redirected to the “m.” version.

One vs. many

That two-site approach works, but it has drawbacks. Since the mobile site is a standalone entity, you’ll have to update it whenever you add or delete content from your main site. Loading speed can be an issue with the redirect process. And having separate sites can hinder search engine results.

In contrast, a responsive website typically loads quickly (thanks in part to the lack of redirects) and is usually SEO friendly, since search engines only have to index a single site.

While responsive design eliminates the need for multiple sites, it can be complex to plan and build a responsive site from scratch. Still, you only have to build one site, and not multiple versions. What’s more, it’s not always necessary to start from scratch — depending on your existing design, a Web developer might be able to retrofit your site.

A final point to consider: No less an authority than Google has designated responsive design as the “recommended configuration” for all mobile-optimized sites. And when it comes to Web design issues, it’s always a safe bet to listen to what Google — and your users — tell you.

If you would like to learn more about how FindLaw can help with mobile Web design solutions, please contact us for a free legal marketing consultation.


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