The signals are clear. Smartphones and tablets have changed the digital landscape forever.
Any business serious about online growth has to have ‘mobile’ as part of its strategy. In this post, we’ll look at 4 reasons why Responsive Design makes sense as part of your mobile strategy.
First, here’s a brief definition of “Responsive Design”:
Responsive Design is a web design approach aimed at crafting sites to provide an optimal viewing experience – easy reading and navigation with a minimum of resizing, panning, and scrolling – across a wide range of devices (from desktop computer monitors to mobile phones). ~Wikipedia
Responsive design is not a mobile app. Responsive design simply refers to having a website which dynamically adjusts its appearance to suit any device. Let’s look at why this is important.
1. Devices are proliferating
It all began with the iPhone. Then came other smartphones. 2012 was the first year where mobile devices outpaced PC sales When we thought that was it, the iPad entered the market. 
One thing is for sure – when markets are profitable, this signposts other competitors to enter, and this is exactly what has happened with the market for mobile devices.
As a result, the device landscape looks like this.
Most websites created for large screens, look horrible on small screens. And beyond simply looking bad, a poor experience on these smaller screens can drive customers away and result in lost sales or traffic.
Responsive design is just one of the ways to cope with this explosion of devices in a way that gives consumers a good experience across devices, while leveraging a single source of code.
2. Not everyone will download mobile apps
Mobile apps are definitely taking the world by storm. The four leading app stores have hit 13.4 billion downloads, and downloads are growing at a quarterly rate of 11%.
It is undeniable that apps installed on the phone (whether iPhone, Android, Windows or Blackberry) can provide a superior customer experience. This is because they can take advantage of the devices’ ‘native capabilities’ (ie. improved use of interface and software, and specific device capabilities such as the camera).
However, despite the high growth in mobile app downloads, there are two reasons why companies may prefer other options than mobile apps.
First, beyond popular operating systems (eg. iOS and Android), some people may use phones not suitable for apps. Second, for those users who do have phones capable of downloading apps, they may not download or use the app for your company. As an example, in the US the average user launches just under 8 apps on their phone per day.
The result of this- is that users will still use web browsing to access some services.
Responsive design is a good contingency strategy in the event you either do not build a mobile app or you have an app that users do not download.
3. Customers buy products using multiple devices
This is most common in the ‘research and buying stage’ of the decision cycle. For example, a customer may commence the research process using a computer, then go into a store and use their mobile device to compare prices before they decide to buy.
Because of this switching behaviour across devices (ie. computer, smartphone, tablet) and operating platforms (eg. Windows XP, Android on smartphone, etc), the relevance of mobile applications is reduced.
Responsive Design accommodates this behaviour by creating a consistent experience across any device.
In recent years, one way companies have catered to mobile devices is to build slightly different versions of their website. This is referred to as ‘mobile optimisation’. This involves detecting when a user is looking at the website via a smartphone, then re-directing that user to an alternative version of the site that is suitable for viewing on the phone.
While this practice provides a better experience than viewing a full version of the website through the phone, it means companies have to absorb the cost of creating a different version of their site and then keeping this version of the site up-to-date across many devices.
Mobile optimisation worked well when the world was not sure how much phones would be used to surf the web. Today we know that website traffic from smartphones and tablets is substantial (~21% of total traffic) and growing quickly. Traffic from non-mobile sources (such as laptops and PCs) is still in the majority (79%). 
By creating a single version of a website through Responsive Design, where the website dynamically adjusts no matter which device is used, this creates simplicity and reduces cost.
Though all companies should seriously consider their mobile application strategy due to the explosive growth of smartphones and tablets, there is also a need for a contingency strategy for users who do not use mobile apps. Responsive Design is one of the best options available to do this.
Question: Are you considering Responsive Design as part of your mobile strategy? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
Acknowledgements: The title image on this post was partially created using PlaceIt.