Responsive Websites Are Here for a Reason

by Sr. Susan Wolf, SND on March 11, 2014

in website

If you are not involved in website design or managing a website on a daily basis, you may not be aware of the changes taking place in website design due to the increased use of mobile devices. However, if you are thinking about creating a new ministry website or updating your current one, you may want to read the rest of this post.

Did you know that in January 2014:

Americans used smartphone and tablet apps more than PCs to access the Internet last month — the first time that has ever happened.

Mobile devices accounted for 55% of Internet usage in the United States in January.
(from Mobile apps overtake PC Web usage in U.S.)

According to the Pew Internet Project’s Research Mobile Technology Fact Sheet

As of January 2014:

  • 90% of American adults have a cell phone

  • 58% of American adults have a smartphone

  • 32% of American adults own an e-reader

  • 42% of American adults own a tablet computer

Many website designers and companies are paying attention to this trend and creating websites that are “responsive” to the various devices. This is called responsive web design. According to Wikipedia responsive web design (RWD) is an effort on the part of designers 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 mobile phones to desktop computer monitors).”

If you are not sure whether your website is responsive, view it using different devices. If it looks exactly the same on each device and you have to scroll from side to side, as well as up down and resize the view to follow content, it is probably not responsive. If, on the other hand, the design re-configures itself so that you can follow content seamlessly by simply scrolling up or down, it is responsive.

If you do not have a mobile device at hand, you can view your website on your computer and then reduce the size of the browser window and see what happens.  If you do that with the websites of the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament  or St. Joseph Catholic Church, you will see how the content responds to the smaller screen size.That is what should happen with your site if it is responsive.

If you do not think that this mobile revolution impacts you, check the Google Analytics for your site (if you have it) and see what percentage of your visitors use mobile devices.  I checked two of the sites that I work with and I found that 57% of views on a parish site were from mobile devices and 55% of the views on a religious community website were from mobile devices.  What are your findings?

Many of the volunteer website designers and even some of the professional designers we have used in the past are not trained or equipped to provide a responsive design. But that is what we need going forward given the growth in the use of mobile devices. Our websites are a ministry and we want them to be easily accessible regardless of the device being used.

If you are in the market for a new website, do your homework and find a designer who can provide a responsive website.

What is your experience with responsive web design? What is your experience of websites that you access from a smartphone or tablet?

FYI: In my research for this post, I found some writers using terms such as reactive, receptive, or adaptive design instead of responsive, but responsive seems to be the most common.

 

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Sr. Angela Ann Zukowski March 11, 2014 at 7:09 am

Thanks for this information and the statistics. It is always great to have! Thanks for keeping us all in the loop!

SAAZ

Frank Koob March 11, 2014 at 8:34 am

I use Weebly to host and develop my website. For some years Weebly has included an option to make websites responsive. The design editing software gives both PC and Mobile views so one can always check one’s pages for each kind of device.
I have not checked my stats in this area yet. I will following your advice.
Thanks, Frank

Sister Emmanuel March 11, 2014 at 10:59 am

Have you heard of WIX.com? It is a “free” web site that provides the users with templates and also make most of these templates responsive for mobile use.
If you have heard of it, what do you think. They themselves are very responsive and do provide upgrades that cost. Not sure what to do?
Thanks!

Sr. Susan Wolf, SND March 14, 2014 at 6:38 pm

Sr. Angela, These statistics are important. It looks like mobile is becoming the new Internet standard and we need to be more attuned to that.

Frank, thanks for telling us about Weebly.

Sister Emmanuel, I have not heard of WIX.com, but welcome information from other readers if they have.

John K Riordan March 15, 2014 at 12:06 pm

A couple of years ago, I created a highly responsive website, with infinite scrolling. The purpose was to create a free advertising venue for retreat centers. The retreat centers I spoke with didn’t like it at all. They found it “overwhelming”. Catholic Online is now using the same Joomla template I used, albeit with minor alterations. http://www.catholic.org Scroll down, down. It IS overwhelming, I suppose, but I like it! All the little squares are meant to display on mobile devices.

John K Riordan March 15, 2014 at 12:15 pm

Wix is very good, if you want a cool looking free site! I don’t know much about Weebly, but it’s popular. The trouble I have with these free online web-building sites is that you’re married to the platform. You can’t move your site if it becomes necessary–or at least that’s my understanding. You can move a WordPress site from server to server if necessary. Pros: It’s free. Easy to install (especially if you have access to a one-click installer). Free and inexpensive templates are plentiful. The support community is huge. It’s very easy to use; create Pages and menus create themselves. Cons: Third-party modules can break with WP updates. Backup is a necessary chore. There are WP modules which automate backups, but you’ll still want to do occasional manual backups.

Sr. Susan Wolf, SND March 15, 2014 at 12:56 pm

John,

Thank you for the comments. I checked the site with the infinite scrolling–I do think it is a bit much. The amount of scrolling doesn’t bother me, but the lack of apparent organization.

Thanks for the info on the different platforms. I have used WordPress with multiple sites and I am very happy with it.

John K Riordan March 16, 2014 at 9:58 am

Another popular website builder site, although it’s not free, is Homestead. http://www.homestead.com. $4.99 a month. However, I offer the same caveat. You can’t move your site. And often with these “free” or low cost website builders, you’re forced to carry their ads, which may very well conflict with our Catholic values. Often you’re stuck with a URL such as myministry.homestead.com, which I consider to be unprofessional. Or you’re stuck with a url in Libya or the Norfolk Island. For $4-7 a month, you can buy server space with a webhosting company and host DOZENS of sites, with a selection of scores of free server-based apps. WordPress and Joomla are two CMS (content management systems) which appear to have been adopted widely among Catholic organizations. I know both. They’re both free, easy to install, templates and community support are plentiful. I’d like to propose a different kind of web-based Catholic community. Catholic discussion boards are pretty much a wasteland. If a dozen of us, instead, wanted to share a server account with a discussion forum attached, we could realize significant savings and it would be a learning environment for us all. Comments?

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