Today's Technology: Responding to the Need for Smarter Web Design

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Running a successful business has never been easy. Now, you must be able to compete with big box stores and online retailers, not just the guy down the street. Your customers are changing, too. They have a lot of choices for service providers, and they aren’t going to pick up the phone book and see your expensive advertisement. They’re going straight to their smartphones or their laptops to look for you online.

Word of mouth has turned into social media. If a parent tells their child to go to your shop for service, they’re going to look you up online first — at the very least for directions. If they can’t find you, they’re going somewhere else.

Even a local business needs to have a good website to attract customers. A website isn’t just for selling online; think of it as a digital showroom for your business. Your website should provide information and convey an overall impression of your business in a way that is convenient and easy for the customer.

Today, more than 60 percent of all searches are performed on a mobile device. That number is only getting larger. So, what does that mean for your website?

When someone tries to view a website on a smartphone and the website is not mobile friendly, they aren’t going to stay long. In fact, 74 percent of visitors will leave if your site doesn’t load in less than 4 seconds. Aside from the longer loading times, they have to pinch and pull at the screen to find what they’re looking for. When they try to click a button, they hit the wrong one by mistake.

Google just announced they have changed the way they rank sites for mobile searches. Remember, mobile searches make up more than 60 percent of all searches, and Google accounts for 67 percent of all searches. When someone does a search on a mobile device, the results they receive are now ranked based on mobile friendliness. Basically, if your site isn’t mobile friendly, it could hurt your ranking. Even if you still manage to make it to the first page, if your site isn’t easy to view and use, they won’t stay long.

Mobile versus Responsive Design

There are several options for making your site mobile friendly. You can get a mobile site — essentially, two separate websites — or you can get a responsive website. You can also get a mobile app, but we won’t get into that today.

A mobile website is sort of a trimmed down version of your full website, to make it easier to view and interact with. The content is condensed, calls to action are larger and navigation bars are prominent, and they usually feature click-to-call capabilities.

The main argument against mobile sites is they are essentially a separate site — and a separate URL. This means, in your battle to the top of the search engines, you have a familiar opponent, your second URL.

Responsive design was developed in response to the fact people don’t just view websites on smartphones and desktop computers. They use laptops and tablets, and smartphones seem to get bigger, then smaller, then bigger again. There are also other devices that allow users to connect to the Internet, such as smartwatches, wristbands and smart TVs. There is no telling where Internet connectivity will pop up next. How can any website accommodate all of these different devices?

We won’t get into the technical details, but what it comes down to is, a responsive site will automatically adjust to fit the size of any device. The navigation, buttons, images, every element of the site will adjust to fit the screen. A responsive site also means you have one URL. There is no redirecting between two sites to frustrate customers, and it provides a better user experience overall.

Some people strongly prefer one option over the other, but there are pros and cons to both mobile and responsive sites. As long as technology continues to outrun our ability to master it, there will always be challenges. You have to choose the option that is better for your business.

The bottom line is this — your business needs to have a strong Internet presence. You need to make sure all users, no matter what device they are on, can find and interact with your website. If you don’t at least have a mobile friendly site, you could be losing out on more than 60 percent of potential web traffic. Can you afford to take that risk?

HOLLY BIONDO is Marketing Coordinator at Net Driven. Net Driven is a leading provider of websites and Internet marketing exclusively for the automotive industry. Founded by Pat Sandone, a third-generation independent tire dealer, in 2007, Net Driven now has more than 5,000 points of sale throughout North America. Headquartered in Scranton, Pennsylvania, they also have satellite offices in Duluth, Minnesota, and New York, New York. Net Driven combines automotive industry experience with Internet marketing expertise to provide unique solutions to help independent businesses thrive. Biondo can be contacted at: hbiondo@getnetdriven.com

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