The Benefits of a Responsive Website
Research reveals that over half of people browsing the web will be on a mobile device. And roughly 80% of mobile searchers say if they don't like what they find on one website, they'll leave that website and look for another, more mobile-friendly solution.
Businesses must start preparing now to meet customer expectations. But how? How does a business ensure that its web presence is mobile friendly?
In the past, we've talked with our clients about mobile websites versus mobile apps in meeting the needs of growing mobile audiences.
More and more, responsive website design is entering our conversations.
Below is a quick guide to responsive websites--what responsive design entails and the pros and cons of implementing a responsive website--to help you evaluate your choices as you think about making your website mobile-friendly.
What Is a Responsive Website?
Responsive websites can look similar to dedicated mobile websites, but they work very differently.
A responsive website detects different device screen sizes; it does not detect device types (e.g., iOS; Android; Windows; Blackberry). A responsive website automatically reformats design and content to best suit the size screen it's being viewed on.
Only one website is created, and it works for a variety of screen widths, from a widescreen desktop monitor to a compact mobile phone screen.
The website for Hanover County Economic Development is responsive. It adapts itself to "fit" desktop, tablet and smartphone screens. Content and features are standard across each experience. And everything happens at one web address: www.hanovervirginia.com.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Responsive Website Design?
1. Content parity
You can't assume that a website visitor "won't do" certain things on a mobile device or "doesn't need" certain types of content or features; the "lite" web experience is a myth. Mobile devices users aren't always "on the go," either.
People search for information on search engines. They check and send email. They read articles, blog posts, and even books. They read product reviews, compare prices, and make purchases, all from mobile devices.
They use tablets and smartphones at work, out shopping, and sitting on the sofa at home.
For some folks, a mobile device may be the only way that they access and browse the web.
In light of the changing mobile context, it is imperative that people can access and find complete information, no matter what device they use or where they use it. With a responsive website, a website visitor can find just about the same content and features, whether they're on a smartphone or a desktop computer.
2. One website address
There's only one website address for your website. You don't have to wonder if people are at the correct version of your website, which can happen with a mobile website. If mobile redirects are not set up properly, people can wind up on the wrong website (e.g., they could be looking at your mobile website when they're using a desktop computer) and have a less-than-pleasing experience.
Plus, a single URL makes it easier for your website visitors to share your content. Everyone will end up in the right place, and they'll see the right version of the web page.
Ikea shows what mishaps can happen with mobile websites. This Craiglist ad, which was viewed on a laptop, has a link to Ikea's mobile website.
When you click on the link, you are not automatically redirected to the desktop website. You still end up at the mobile website...
The Ikea mobile website shows up, even though the visitor is using a laptop.
...which does not provide the expected experience.
This is Ikea's "full" or "desktop" website, which is what one expects to see on a laptop. Note that the mobile and desktop versions are vastly different, and provide different content.
3. Easy website maintenance
You only have to post your website edits once, and then you're done.
4. Independent of devices
Responsive websites are based on screen widths, not device types. Since a responsive website works independently of device type, you don't have to spend quite so much time researching and maintaining a library of mobile devices to detect and optimize for, something you have to do with mobile websites. An app is similar--you have to research and then maintain different versions of your app for different device types/platforms. This research and maintenance can be time- and resource-intensive. Ultimately, a responsive website can be more cost-effective for your company.
5. SEO benefits
Besides providing a good user experience for your visitors (an important component of search engine optimization) and cutting down on maintenance work and costs for your business, Bing identifies these other benefits of responsive websites: stronger inbound links (links from other websites to yours) and improved site performance.
By outputting only one URL for the same content, you will have the following benefits:
1. You have more ranking signals coming to this URL. Example: the vast majority of mobile URLs do not have inbound links from other websites as people do not link to mobiles URLs like they link to regular web-situated URLs.
2. This is also less search engine crawler traffic coming to your web servers, which is especially useful for large websites. Fewer URLs to crawl reduces the bandwidth our crawlers consume.
SEO agency Distilled reports that implementing a responsive website design decreased their bounce rate; and for one of their staffers, who has a freelance photography business, website visits increased by more than 400% in the first month after he implemented a responsive website.
Ultimately, responsive design can be a plus when it comes to your online visibility.
1. Harder to implement for existing websites
If you’re starting your website from scratch, it’s easier to make it responsive from the get-go.
Making an existing website responsive can pose some challenges. For instance, the existing website design may not lend itself to a responsive design. It can be hard to make an existing design adapt as it goes from large screens to small screens. This means that many parts of the site may need to be redesigned and developed again.
But, it's important to note that these potential costs are well worth the outcome: a better experience for web visitors!
2. Slightly longer loading times
With a responsive website, you are serving up essentially the same set of code as your desktop site. Some adjustments will be made, but not as many as a full-on mobile website. A responsive website might take slightly longer to load when viewed on a mobile device. But the differences are negligible, and if done right, responsive design won't have a negative impact on performance.
3. Possible customer confusion
As long as a website displays properly on a mobile device, people are usually happy. Some customers, though, may wonder where the “view full website” link is. They may not realize that they’re at the “full” website already. But as responsive websites become more commonplace, this isn't likely to be a huge issue.
Should my business implement a responsive web design?
The pros definitely outweigh the cons when it comes to responsive websites. A people-first approach that makes website maintenance easier, improves SEO, and lowers costs? Yes, please!
The cons of responsive design simply illustrate that, as with any other online marketing initiative, you've got to carefully research and execute your plan; sometimes, your plan might take some time to implement fully. And, with all new things, it might take some getting used to.
With the evolution of online behavior, you can't afford to ignore your mobile audiences. A responsive website can definitely be a helpful tool in reaching those audiences and meeting their needs.
However, take this advice with a grain of salt--responsive isn't the end all, be all of mobile-friendly website strategy. The approach you take depends, fundamentally, on the needs of your customers. Through careful analysis of your website analytics and customer profiles, you might find that a mobile website or a mobile app is better suited to your target audiences.
All the Talk of an Accelerating Economy and Rising Inflation Just Doesn't Add Up
The biggest news for the markets this week came from the Federal Reserve. On Wednesday, it released the January Federal Open Market Committee meeting notes and they were interpreted as dovish by some and hawkish by others as analysts raced to divine insight from the text.
The recent data isn’t supporting the narrative of accelerating global growth and inflation while equities continue to experience higher volatility. What does it mean for stocks, bonds and yields? Glad you asked! Here’s my take on why all the talk on an accelerating economy and rising inflation just doesn't add up when you look at the data.
Equity Markets — A Relatively Narrow Recovery
The shortened trading week opened Tuesday with every sector except technology closing in the red. The S&P 500 fell back below its 50-day moving average after Walmart (WMT) reported disappointing results, falling over 10% on the day, having its worst trading day in over 30 years.
Walmart’s online sales grew 23% in the fourth quarter, but had grown 29% in the same quarter a year prior and were up 50% in the third quarter. We saw further evidence of the deflationary power of our Connected Society investing theme as the company reported the lowest operating margin in its history.
Ongoing investment to combat Amazon (AMZN) and rising freight costs — a subject our premium research subscribers have heard a lot of about lately — were the primary culprits behind Walmart's declining numbers. To really rub salt in that wound, Amazon shares hit a new record high the same day. This pushed the outperformance of the FAANG stocks versus the S&P 500 even higher.
Wednesday was much of the same, with most every sector again closing in the red, driven mostly by interpretations of the Federal Reserve’s release of the January Federal Open Market Committee meeting notes. In fact, twenty-five minutes after the release of those notes, the Dow was up 303 points . . . and then proceeded to fall 470 points to close the day down 167 points. To put that swing in context, so far in 2018, the Dow has experienced that kind of a range seven times but not once in 2017.
Thursday was a mixed bag. Most sectors were flat to slightly up as the S&P 500 closed up just +0.1%, while both the Russell 2000 and the Nasdaq Composite lost -0.1%. The energy sector was the strongest performer, gaining 1.3% while financials took a hit, falling 0.7%.
The recovery from the lows this year has been relatively narrow. As of Thursday’s close, the S&P 500 is still below its 50-day moving average, up 1.1% year-to-date with the median S&P 500 sector down -1.0%. Amazon, Microsoft and Netflix alone are responsible for nearly half of the year’s gain in the S&P 500. The Russell 2000 is down -0.4% year-to-date and also below its 50-day moving average. The Dow is up 78 points year-to-date, but without Boeing (BA), would be down 317 points as two-thirds of Dow stocks are in the red for the year.
Fixed Income and Inflation — the Coming Debt Headwind
The 1-year Treasury yield hit 2.0%, the highest since 2008 while the 5-year Treasury yield has risen to the highest rate since 2010, these are material moves!
What hasn’t been terribly material so far is the Fed’s tapering program. It isn’t exactly a fire sale with the assets of the Federal Reserve down all off 0.99% since September 27 when Quantitative Tightening began, which translates into an annualized pace of 2.4%.
As for inflationary pressures, U.S. Import prices increased 3.6% year-over-year versus expectations for 3.0%, mostly reflecting the continued weakness in the greenback. The Amex Dollar Index (DXY) has been below both its 50-day and 200-day moving averages for all of 2018. The increase in import prices excluding fuel was the largest since 2012 and also beat expectations. Import prices for autos, auto parts and capital goods have accelerated but consumer good ex-autos once again moved into negative territory.
Outside the U.S. we see little evidence that inflation is accelerating. Korea’s PPI fell further to 1.2% - no evidence of rising inflation there. In China the Producer Price Index fell to a 1-year low – yet another sign that we don’t have rising global inflation. On Friday the European Central Bank’s measure of Eurozone inflation for January came in at 1.3% overall and has been fairly steadily declining since reaching a peak of 1.9% last April. This morning we saw that Japan’s Consumer Price Index rose for the 13th consecutive month in January, rising 0.9% from year-ago levels. Excluding fresh food and energy, the increase was just 0.4% - again, not exactly a hair-on-fire pace.
The reality is that the U.S. economy is today the most leveraged it has been in modern history with a total debt load of around $47 trillion. On average, roughly 20% of this debt rolls over annually. Using a quick back-of-the-envelope estimate, the new blended average rate for the debt that is rolling over this year will likely be 0.5% higher. That translates to approximately $250 billion in higher debt service costs this year. Talk about a headwind to both growth and inflationary pressures. The more the economy picks up steam and pushes interest rates up, the greater the headwind with such a large debt load… something consumers are no doubt familiar with and are poised to experience yet again in the coming quarters.
The Twists and Turns of Cryptocurrencies
The wild west drama of the cryptocurrency world continued this week as the South Korean official who led the government’s regulatory clampdown on cryptocurrencies was found dead Sunday, presumably having suffered a fatal heart attack, but the police have opened an investigation into the cause of his death.
Tuesday, according to Yonhap News, the nation’s financial regulator said the government will support “normal transactions” of cryptocurrencies, three weeks after banning digital currency trades through anonymous bank accounts. Yonhap also reported that the South Korean government will “encourage” banks to work with the cryptocurrency exchanges. Go figure. Bitcoin has nearly doubled off its recent lows.
Tuesday the crisis-ridden nation of Venezuela launched an oil-backed cryptocurrency, the “petro,” in hopes that it will help circumvent financials sanctions imposed by the U.S. and help improve the nation’s failing economy. This was the first cryptocurrency officially launched by a government. President Nicolás Maduro hosted a televised launch in the presidential palace which had been dressed up with texts moving on screens and party-like music stating, “The game took off successfully.” The government plans to sell 82.4 million petros to the public. This will be an interesting one to watch.
Economy — Maintaining Context & Perspective is Key
Housing joined the ranks of U.S. economic indicators disappointing to the downside in January with the decline in existing home sales. Turnover fell 3.2%, the second consecutive decline, and is now at the lowest annual rate since last September. Sales were 4.8% below year-ago levels while the median sales price fell 2.4%, also the second consecutive decline and this marks the 6th decline in the past 7 months. U.S. mortgage applications for purchase are near a 52-week low.
Again, that’s the latest data, but as we like to say here at Tematica, context and perspective are key. Looking back over the past month, around 60% of the U.S. economic data releases have come in below expectations and this has prompted the Citigroup Economic Surprise Index (CESI) to test a 4-month low. Sorry to break it to you folks, but the prevailing narrative of an accelerating economy just isn’t supported by the hard data. No wonder that even the ever-optimistic Atlanta Fed has slashed its GDPNow forecast for the current quarter down to 3.2% from 5.4% on Feb. 1. We suspect further downward revisions are likely.
Looking up north, it wasn’t just the U.S. consumer who stepped back from buying with disappointing retail sales as Canadian retail sales missed badly, falling 0.8% versus expectations for a 0.1% decline. Over in the land of bronze, silver and gold dreams, South Korean exports declined 3.9% year-over-year.
Wednesday’s flash PMI’s were all pretty much a miss to the downside. Eurozone Manufacturing PMI for February declined more than was expected to 58.5 from 59.6 in January versus expectations for 59.2. Same goes for Services which dropped to 56.7 from 58 versus expectations for 57.7. France and Germany also saw both their manufacturing and services PMIs decline more than expected in February. The U.K. saw its unemployment rate rise unexpectedly to 4.4% from 4.3%
The Bottom Line
Economic acceleration and rising inflation aren’t showing up to the degree that was expected, and this was a market priced for perfection. The Federal Reserve is giving indications that it will not be providing the same kind of downside protection that asset prices have enjoyed since the crisis, pushing markets to reprice risk and question the priced-to-perfection stocks.
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