Responsive Web Design

Have you noticed things are getting flatter? Not things in nature, trees and bald eagles and the like. But some business web designs are losing the elements that used to make them “pop”. Led by by content-focused mobile apps, web designs are following phones into minimalist, “flat” designs.

Users and Content First

Device interface designers prioritize usability over glitz, leading them towards simple and often flat graphics. Look at the Windows Phone interface and apps like Foursquare and Nike+ Running for more examples. Mobile designs like these influence the whole app industry and web design besides.

Since mobile browsing is fast becoming normal web browsing, web designers, like app designers, have to make specific choices to accommodate mobile devices. A mobile-first approach means prioritizing access to content so that mobile users quickly get the information they’re looking for. You might even call this a content-first approach.

When content comes first, flashier extras get left behind. No faux 3D graphics, automatic videos or novel animations. Many of those website accoutrements dazzled and amazed visitors in the early days of web browsing. Today, mature and modern designs give content the spotlight, rather than hide it in the drop shadows.

Google Likes It Flat

Here’s the kicker about great content and minimal, mobile web design. It makes Google happy. You see, flat and minimal graphics work really well for mobile responsive web designs. And mobile responsive web design adheres to Google’s own published best practices for websites. Choosing to design with this approach is choosing SEO friendly web design. Here’s two big reasons why:

Quality Experience – Website traffic remains an important indicator of authority. If a mobile user arrives at your website to find shallow graphics and difficult menus, they will bounce right off to the the next thing. Too many bounces and your quality ratings go down. You’ve got to deliver a quality experience on mobile. For now, that means content-focused layouts and minimalist styling.

One Website, No Duplicates – Some web designs spin one page into several with overlapping content served specifically to mobile devices. There’s nothing wrong with these mobile-only sites. It’s simply a hassle to change one, change the other to match, all the while making sure search engines know you’re making mobile alternates, not plagiarizing yourself. While Google continues to support mobile-only URLs, it’s far better to present all users with the same information, regardless of their device.

There’s a lot more ways responsive design is changing SEO, but at the core is content. Flat graphics as part of a mobile responsive design give users the straightforward, solid experience that keeps them sharing and coming back, building your authority for SEO.

Note: A flat or minimalist aesthetic is not responsive design. Web designers create amazing things for mobile responsive sites using all kinds of aesthetics.

But isn’t “flat” boring?

We’ve gotta entertain the people, blow their minds am-I-right? How does “flat” make it “pop”?

For business and even restaurant or event websites, the content-first approach demands restraint. Your website content should be the exciting part, supported by clear navigation tools and buttons. Don’t worry about heavily stylizing all of the backgrounds, buttons and menus. When you and your content are great, everything else should just hold you up, not compete for attention.

If your aim is to entertain or amaze, let’s talk about an amazing content strategy instead of flashy styling. Let your quality content, whether written word or multimedia, be the star of the site. Users will appreciate it and search engines will reward this approach.

photo credit: steveberardi via photopin cc