Yes, it’s the so-called digital age. Yes, almost half of the U.S. population owns three or more internet-connected devices. Yes, the vast majority of consumers perform online research before making purchases. However, with the rise of mobile browsing and the increase in apps and social networks that effectively connect web users with the products and services they need, should businesses even bother making their own websites?
In short: yes. Still, as web users continue to transition to mobile browsing, business websites must be able to change in form and function to keep up with advancing technology and consumer needs. Here is why a page on social media will never be enough to find success online – and how to build a business website that engages users on all devices.
Why Websites Still Matter
You might have a Facebook page, a Twitter handle, a profile on Yelp, and a number of other social media accounts, but where should your customers go for basic information about your business? The answer is – and probably always will be – your website. A website is a hub for all of your myriad online spaces; it is the location of your best content and the most reliable information regarding products and services.
What’s more, websites are accessible by all demographics. According to the Pew Research Center, all generations, from millennials to the G.I. generation, primarily visit the web to complete tasks most often associated with websites. For example, the second most popular internet function, using a search engine, usually leads web users directly to content on a business website.
No matter a web user’s age, he or she will at some point desire to get news, buy products, or seek specific information, all of which are hardly ever done on social media. Thus, a business website remains absolutely mandatory to answer consumer demand, regardless of the audience you serve.
The media has a historical obsession with predicting the end of various technologies, but ultimately, websites are no different than movie theaters and newspapers. Social media will never destroy the need for autonomous business websites – but it does force businesses to build their websites in new and exciting ways.
How to Make a More Relevant Site
The fact remains that more and more web users are coming from alternative devices – not the large-screened desktop computers most websites were designed for. Not long ago, a web designer could optimize a site for a resolution of 1024 x 768 pixels and be done with it, but today, screens come in all shapes and sizes, from the gargantuan 2560 x 1440 pixels on massive desktop monitors to the miniscule 310 x 352 pixels of old iPhones in portrait mode. Thus, a traditional website is not flexible enough to meet the needs of the majority of online visitors.
Responsive design is the art of developing a website for use on multiple devices. Using a website builder, it is easy enough to make your own website that responds well to various mobile and traditional devices – as long as you know what your visitors need in a functional site.
Google Analytics (or your preferred web analysis service) will help you understand what type of devices your most frequent customers use. A rate of 10 percent of mobile visitors necessitates mobile optimization; any more than that, and you might consider building a dedicated mobile site.
3 Examples of Amazing Websites
Many established businesses have difficulty understanding the point in updating their websites. However, just like any other business practice, a site that has worked in the past is not guaranteed to work in the future. The following responsive websites are perfect examples of how much a business benefits when its site caters to its audience’s needs:
- Bonobos. The mobile version mirrors the original site’s style without cramping small screens with too much detail. Instead, navigation is relegated to a menu icon and a shopping cart.
- Made by Hand. Most designers assume mobile only works with small pictures and limited text, but this site demonstrates that big video and photography are possible in mobile versions.
- World Wildlife Fund. A nonprofit site is all about the calls-to-action, and WWF manages to put those CTAs in the forefront even in its mobile site – while maintaining a gorgeous design.