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5 Undeniable Reasons Why Your School's Website Needs to Be Responsive
Mia Major

Finalsite launched its first responsive website in 2012 — that was before The New York Times, Buzzfeed, Amazon and yes, even Apple were responsive.

But check out all those sites now, and they are without a doubt, fully responsive.

We don't like to threaten here on the Finalsite Blog, but let's quickly get to the core of this: you can ignore responsive design at your peril.

Just as water and food are essential for survival on earth, responsive design is essential for survival on the web. Denying the importance of responsive design in 2015 (and going into 2016) will surely leave you in your competition's dust, on page 27 of Google search, and not in the minds of your prospects.

But wait — what exactly is responsive design?

Responsive Web Design (RWD) is the optimal approach to web design. Responsive websites are designed to provide an optimal user experience for scrolling, reading, and navigation, with no resizing or panning. Responsive designs are built to fit a wide range of devices, from desktop computer monitors to mobile phones.

Responsive websites are effective because unlike mobile website templates, you offer the exact same experience on every device. They make website updates simpler, and provide the best experience for your website visitor, no matter which device they are coming from.

Here is one of the best analogies to describe the effects of responsive:

Content is Like Water

Not sure if your school's website is responsive? Plug it into this tool to see what it looks like on all devices.

Now that you're a little more familiar with what responsive design is, let's take a closer dive into what we see as the five undeniable reasons why every school website needs to be responsive.

1) Mobile usage is skyrocketing and has yet to plateau.

Since 2008 mobile data traffic has increased 3,000% and is expected to increase 400% more over the next five years.

Crazy, right? Today, we are completely dependent on mobile technology and borderline obsessed.

Have you ever arrived at work, only to realize you left your smartphone at home? You more than likely flirt with the idea of driving back home to get it despite time or traffic, because you can't imagine a day without it.

It's safe to say that most of us are all past the tipping point: we don't just use our phones to communicate.

We depend on them when we're on the go to tell us where the closest gas station is, which restaurant has better pizza, what the phone number is to our child's school, and how many Starbucks there are in a five-mile radius.

They're how we stay connected with the rest of the world 24-7 while sitting at our desk.

The popularity of mobile isn't just something that will pass. It's here to stay —and these stats from Smart Insights back-up our dependence with using mobile devices.

  • 80% of Internet users own a smartphone
  • In 2014, the number of mobile users surpassed desktop users
  • The average user spends three hours on their smartphone browsing the Internet per day
  • Mobile ad spending is up to $13 billion per year
  • In one case study, The Huffington Post saw a 37% increase in unique visitors and 50% increase in time spent since going responsive.

2) It creates a positive user experience.

Today's user is completely saturated by content and experiences, both good and bad. And in order for your website to resonate and be remembered, it's essential that you provide them with a simple and delightful experience — and responsive design is at the very center of that.

The majority of Finalsite schools see a large chunk of their traffic come from mobile devices: an average of 22-37% of website traffic comes smartphones, and an average of 11-18% comes from tablets — meaning some schools see up to a combined total of 50% of their website traffic coming from mobile devices.

If you offer a poor mobile experience (or lack one altogether) there's a 61% chance that a website visitor will leave immediately and go to another website — and it will most likely be a competing school. Why? Because they become frustrated, can't find what they're looking for, or you failed to meet their expectations.

On the other hand, when the mobile experience is positive, a user is 67% more likely to inquire or apply.

3) Responsive design improves search engine performance.

As of April 21, 2015, Google officially favored responsive design in mobile search results. And while a couple of years ago only 20% of searches were performed on mobile devices, this past May, Google announced that there are officially more searches on mobile than desktop.

What does this mean for you? More and more prospective and current families are looking to their phones and tablets to conduct:

  • local searches like best private schools near me;
  • unbranded searches like boarding schools in california; and
  • branded, specific searches like charlotte country day school football schedule.

The truth is that you're going to rank far behind your competition in those broad, unbranded searches if they're responsive and you're not. And, you're making it extremely hard on your community members to easily find what they're looking for.

From a technical standpoint, having one single URL makes it easier for Google bots to crawl your site and it reduces the chance of on-page SEO errors. There are no redirects and no mobile site pages to compete with, both of which could potentially harm your performance in search.

In addition to Google, Facebook recently announced that it too will punish non-responsive websites in its search results and news feeds.

4) Responsive adapts to future devices.

Responsive design isn't just about working right now. It's adaptive nature inherently prepares your website for the future — so it's an investment that won't go to waste a year down the road.

A major benefit of responsive design is that the size of the template is designed based on screen size, not device — meaning it will adapts to any device's screen size. So, in the future, as new devices like TVs and watches pop up in the market, your responsive site will still look flawless.

5) Social Media is Increasing Mobile Traffic

The other day I was scrolling through my Facebook feed on my iPhone and I stumbled upon some social advertising for a school. Interested, I clicked the ad, only to be brought to a non-responsive and difficult-to-use site. My immediate reaction? Hit the back button.

I'm pretty sure this is every school's worst nightmare — and a responsive website is the only solution.

Social media contributes to more than 1/3 of website traffic, and more than 55% of social media consumption now happens on mobile devices, primarily in apps. So, if you're sharing links to your website (or advertising) on sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Twitter, your website better be responsive. If it's not, you're going to see a high bounce rate on pages you link to on social because you won't meet expectations and users won't find what they're looking for.

Key takeaway

Responsive design is an expectation of your prospects, current families, and even Google and is absolutely essential for your school. 

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