Responsive web design sounds as if it should only interest web developers. But, at a time when an event website can—with design and programming forethought—serve as much more than an online information center, it is important for planners to understand the impact of responsiveness.
Responsive websites are designed so that content shifts to accommodate the different screen sizes of the devices on which it is viewed. A website is responsive if visitors can read, interact, and navigate through the site as well on a smartphone as they can on a desktop PC.
A website is also responsive if Google says it is. On April 21, 2015, the search engine giant changed its search algorithm to reward sites that are responsive. Event planners who rely on the event website to attract attendees and score registrations should care about having their websites found in a Google search.
Google’s decision wasn’t simply some ploy to confuse SEO experts trying to game the system. Analytics data proves that more and more people access websites using mobile devices. If a website is not responsive, visitors will leave. Leads will not materialize. Sales will be lost.
Responsive design is also another way of saying, “simple, functional, and contemporary.” What event brand doesn’t want to be viewed by visitors as up-to-date, easily navigable, and user friendly?
Before responsive design was a thing, website designers had to develop separate websites for every device. Now, with all the web-enabled devices available, creating a separate design for each device is not practical or thrifty. Budget-minded planners should discuss responsiveness with their website designers.
Non-responsive design can mess up website analytics. If the bounce rate (the percentage of website visitors who leave the site after only viewing one page) from mobile visitors is high, it’s difficult for analysts to determine whether the high rate of exits is due to poor usability or irrelevant content.
Attendees love shiny objects. They brought their own phones and tablets into events. Google glass made the rounds for a while and the Apple Watch is making headway now. As new devices become mainstream, responsive websites can immediately accommodate them.
With responsive websites, event managers don’t have to be tethered to a paper binder. They can access cloud-based event management software, registration, or contractor websites from their tablets if all of the aforementioned are responsively designed.
Some exhibition organizers build their own websites using open-source software and templates from content management systems like WordPress, Drupal, or Joomla. It’s important for them to make sure that the templates are responsive before they build the site and no one (mobile) comes.
With innovation on the back end and stunning design on the front end, websites are much more than exercises in branding. They can deliver marketing, operations, financial, and customer service functionality from any device using responsive design. It’s a concept every organizer should care about going forward.