Do You Need a Responsive Website?

Happy New Year!

I’m asked about responsive websites quite a bit so I decided to answer for everyone in a blog post.  Before I answer, I should define the term responsive website.  A responsive website is simply a site design that adjusts automatically to any kind of device, including phones, tablets, laptops, and even larger desktop screens.

To answer the question – yes, in most cases, your website needs to be responsive.  While I know some people may question my recommendation and suggest that your site should always be responsive, I believe that it strongly depends on your target audience.

For most websites, more than half of your visitors will be accessing it via a phone or tablet. Laptop and desktop viewers are now a minority.  However, this does not hold true for absolutely every demographic of visitor or niche.

If your website targets markets that are less likely to surf on their phone then it may not be necessary to move to a responsive design at this point. A simpler or legacy format might be essential for some embedded markets that cannot take advantage of modern browsers.  Also, genres of websites like video gaming, for example, may be accessed more on desktops than on phones.

Having said that, everyone should be considering moving to a responsive website at some point in the future.  If you don’t have a very specific niche as mentioned above, then you already need to be responsive.  If you aren’t, you will suffer a penalty in search results with Google and mobile visitors will have a harder time using your site.

At OCS we use Twitter Bootstrap for our responsive web design.  We’ve found it to be the easiest, most compatible responsive framework to use.  If you choose to use WordPress instead of a pure-HTML or PHP/ASP.NET based design, we recommend ensuring that the theme uses Bootstrap for maximum compatibility.

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Do You Really Need WordPress?

Probably not.

Before I get started, I want to disclaim two things:

  1. This site uses WordPress
  2. The OCS Solutions website uses WordPress

So why do I say you probably don’t need it?  Well, the answer is both simple and complicated so I’ll start with the simplest explanation for my recommendation: unless you intend on running a blog (as your primary site) or an online magazine, you don’t need WordPress.

This site is a blog, so WordPress is a perfect fit.  The OCS Solutions website is updated frequently and has some behind-the-scenes features that our staff use that made WordPress a good fit.  But those examples are quite limited in scope and its likely that the vast majority of non-blog or magazine sites need the features and maintenance requirements that WordPress delivers.

WordPress is an amazing piece of software and has certainly opened up online publishing to the masses.  I highly recommend it for blogs or magazines.  But for personal pages, company websites, and sites with mostly static content, it adds needless complexity and security risks to your site.

Since so many sites use WordPress it is a prime target for hackers.  If your WordPress installation isn’t kept up to date (including all plugins and themes) then you will almost certainly be hacked.  This can potentially be a nightmare to recover from and will certainly ruin a holiday or weekend. If your website content rarely (or never) changes, you probably want a set-and-forget solution, and WordPress, at least that this point in time, does not fit that description.

Regular HTML files can be easily edited in any text editor, including the powerful WYSIWYG Adobe Dreamweaver, so editing your site can still be easy.  If you use Dreamweaver templates or PHP includes then you can make your site even more flexible.  HTML and basic PHP websites are significantly faster than WordPress (unless you use caching, and that can be tricky) as they don’t the database.

If you still need a blog, installing a blog on blog.yoursite.com is always possible – using WordPress there and having your main website content be regular HTML.  With that technique you can have your cake and eat it too!