Note from Nick: This is a guest post from Anne Dorko, who builds amazing WordPress themes, like her newest Anatomy Theme. If you’d like a chance (or a bunch of chances!) to win a copy of the theme, read through the post and you’ll see the contest rules at the bottom!
As a writer, you are probably also a reader.
As a reader, you know from personal experience that readers want access to their content any time and anywhere at their wanton whims.
You have readers of your own (or at least you plan on having some very soon). It only makes sense that you should provide such an opportunity and experience for your readers on your own online platform: Your blog.
If you haven’t heard of the term “responsive design” yet, you should really listen up. Even if you have, it’s time to understand why responsive design is so important and can no longer be ignored.
Understanding Responsive Design
Okay, so what is responsive design?
Responsive design is the new slang that functionally means “It looks good on any platform.”
Technically, it means that it’s optimized to look great at any size — from the desktop, to your top readers’ shiny new tablet, to the latest and greatest smart phones.
To make it simple, you can simulate what each environment looks like by resizing your desktop’s browser window while viewing a responsive design. Typically there are four sizes it is optimized for: Desktop, Tablet, Portrait Landscape, Portrait Mobile. Some neat examples of responsive design include Smashing Magazine and Chris Brogan’s websites.
The beauty of responsive design is that you don’t have to have a specific website just for your mobile readers. Design & branding remains consistent, while the experience gets tweaked nicely for the reader no matter where they’re visiting from.
Your Readers are Mobile
It’s not something we like to admit, but sometimes you’re stuck in the bathroom when inspiration strikes… so out comes the smart phone (or tablet, if you’re that kind of prepared) and you start taking furious notes and Googling your facts.
Maybe it’s not something as lofty as inspiration, and it’s just a good time to catch up on your blog feeds.
But it’s not just porcelain time you’re on your phone either. It’s every time you’ve been waiting on someone while they were trying on clothes at the mall. It’s when you Googled for reviews of that new gadget you’ve got your eye on while riding the bus home. It’s that time you pulled out your tablet and did some market research while sitting in the waiting room at the doctor.
Your readers are human. They’re doing all of that, too, and probably more.
The State of Mobile Content Today
Think about every “mobile” website that redirected you back to the homepage when you clicked on the article instead of loading the article you wanted. Think about every “mobile” app that you had to download if you wanted to access that website from your phone.
Really think of all the websites that have lost your readership because you couldn’t control the page in such a way to access the content you needed from your phone.
For some reason you view it as acceptable, even though those are some of the most frustrating moments. You really want to see what those pages said, but you’re really not going to put up with it, so you try and find your information somewhere else.
Imagine, to your horror, the number of readers you are losing right now because you aren’t prepared to adequately serve your content on a mobile platform — readers who really want to read what you have to say.
According to ReachLocal, the typical mobile user is on their phone 2 hours a day. 49% of them are using their browsers during that time. When you combine that information with smartphone user statistics, that’s an average of 113.5 million hours per day spent browsing the internet on mobile — and that’s not even including tablet users.
In 2013, that number will likely be at least 134.8 million hours. Again, that’s per day, not per year.
That’s more than a quarter of the United States on their phones, 134.8 million hours every day this year. Most Americans would rather give up alcohol and chocolate than their phones.
Tablets are catching up too. Thirty percent of the population owns one.
It’s estimated that by 2016 (only four years away — just short of the infamous and commonly used 5-year business plan), searches made on mobile will overtake searches made from the PC interface.
So why are we all so ill-prepared to handle content coming in from these users? Why do we think this is acceptable?
Engage Your Readers, Before It’s Too Late
Responsive design isn’t just a fad — it’s our first real response to greet our mobile readers with open arms. In the future, there may be a better solution, but right now it’s the new standard.
If you’re using WordPress as your content management system and blogging software, you really have no excuse not to get on board with responsive design.
The WordPress community has an abundance of responsive themes that have cropped up as the concept of responsive design has proved to be more than just a passing phase. It’s still a new age for responsive, however, and not every theme is going to have what you’re looking for.
As Simple As Pressing A Button?
Purchasing a quality responsive theme, installing and activating it is often just the beginning of a tangled web of optimization and confusing settings.
Before you run around buying all the responsive themes, you need to sit down and consider what your goals for your website and consequently, your theme, are.
Ideally, the theme you choose will reflect the following:
- Allow you to shift your focus to the content, rather than worrying about whether you know the best-practices for web design standards.
- Give you the flexibility to create custom pages (such as landing pages) without touching the code. This will probably include a combination of Page Templates and shortcodes.
- Provide you with the tools you need to create visual calls-to-action for your content. (Such as shortcodes for buttons or icons.)
- Focuses on providing you the options you need for high user engagement. Customizable theme messages are good to look for.
- Handles the technical information properly: Up to date HTML & CSS standards, fast-loading pages, and optimized database calls.
When it comes to responsive design, you want to think simple. Unless you have a big budget for a cutting edge design team, it’s better to stick to a theme that puts your content front-and-center without fancy frills. Fancy frills tend to get lost in the smaller sizes.
That leaves the rest of your site to make the content look as great as possible while providing the right information to your readers at the right times.
Ready for the fun?
If you’d like a chance to win Anne’s new Anatomy Theme, just use the contest submission feature directly below this paragraph. The contest is run by Rafflecopter, and the entries are kept completely random via random.org. Also, you have more than one chance to win: there are 3 copies up for grabs, and there are numerous ways to enter (like tweeting every day). Again, just check out the contest below: