How Your Association Can Benefit from Responsive Design

“Responsive” websites are web sites that are designed to be viewed and interacted with flawlessly on a desktop, tablet, or mobile phone. Your users will be able to switch seamlessly between devices, maintaining a familiar user experience.

The benefits of a responsive website are particularly felt by mobile users, so let’s start off by discussing why this demographic is important to consider if you are designing a site for your association.

Image WikiMedia/Tooroot

Image WikiMedia/Tooroot

Why mobile?

Mobile devices are taking off across the globe. 300,000 babies are born every day around the world, but recent research shows that 1.3 million mobile devices are activated every day. In some countries, there are more mobile devices than people.  Some of our clients think their audience is not mobile. These opinions are usually based on outdated data, so let’s bust some myths:

Myth: Mobile users do not come to your website

Fact: Our customers see between 25-30% users visiting from mobile browsers. Worldwide, mobile browsing accounts for 15% of all traffic (not counting tablets). If you don’t want those members, I’m fairly sure your competitors will be glad to serve them. (And yes, even associations have competition.)

If you are not seeing mobile users on your site, it’s because your site is not easy for them to use and those users are going to your competition.

Myth: Mobile users are young users and you don’t want them.

Fact: 24% of tablet users are 35-54, and 17% sare 55 or older.

Myth: you can go mobile later.

Fact: Ignoring mobile platforms was a losing proposition four years ago and it remains so today. Ask Bill Gates:  in 2009, Microsoft had 90% of the operating system market share. In 2012 they have just 23% of the market share when including mobile devices.).

Users are no longer tied to a single screen. Users will visit a site from their work desktop, again on the train home via their mobile, and curl up with it in bed with their tablet. For more than a year now, more email is read on mobiles than desktops, so that email campaign you just launched had better be accessible via a mobile browser.

Responsive design for multi-device websites

By applying responsive design principles, we can create a single website that will be optimized on all devices. This means a single website for all users. The initial design may be more expensive than just designing for a single type of device, but for the cost-conscious there are great responsive WordPress themes available commercially so it is not necessary to build from scratch. The incremental cost of building a responsive design is minor compared to building a separate mobile-only website or mobile app.

Responsive designs look fresh and contemporary and are often coupled with other modern design techniques. A clean, up-to-date website will reflect your association’s value and expertise. If you think a clean design doesn’t matter, think again: Users will judge you by your website, and you have 1/20th of a second to make a great first impression.

In summary, responsive design:

  • is cost-effective;
  • is user-friendly on all devices;
  • depicts your organization as trustworthy and authoritative.


Lastly, a few words on alternatives to responsive design:

  • A custom mobile website may be a great option if your primary website is “big.” Or it may not be. There is a great debate going on between usability guru Jakob Nielsen and more than a few other experts on what’s better: a custom mobile site, or a single website with responsive design. The bottom line is often price: creating and maintaining a separate website may be cost-prohibitive, or that money may be better spent creating an app.
  • A mobile app can be more useful than a mobile website. Also, research shows that apps are used more often, and for more interactions, than websites. The downside is the barrier to entry is greater, since users will have to download and install an app.
  • A non-responsive modern design is also possible. For most simple sites without complex content, mobile browsers can do a good job of presenting a modern design. For best results, the design should use modern techniques such as progressive enhancement and CSS3. And of course, if you must use mobile un-friendly technologies such as Adobe Flash, always serve mobile-friendly alternatives to mobile users.

What’s your experience with responsive design or mobile users? Tell us in the comments.

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