If you haven’t been keeping up with the news from Google, you might be surprised to learn that there are a few key changes in the way the dominant American search engine is looking at your website. If you haven’t given you site a refresh in the last year or so, you are likely in for a redevelopment cycle. The reason is that two of the changes require significant changes in the way your website may be coded. Here is a breakdown of when you should consider a redevelopment, rather than a retrofit, of your website.
On April 22, 2015, Google gave unusually clear and direct guidance to webmasters everywhere: make your website Responsive, or your rankings will suffer. Responsive web design is, at its most basic, a method of designing that allows your site to size itself to the display it’s viewed on. But my site has been doing this for years with fluid layouts, you might say! And you could be, technically, correct. Responsive takes it a step further than traditional coding techniques and puts attention to the flow of the whole design, making it mobile and touch friendly, using smart image resizing, and using media queries to optimize code for the displaying device. HTML 5 has lent developers a new set of tools, and given momentum to the Responsive concept as a new way of thinking about your site design. On a practical level, Responsive takes the old fluid layouts to a new level, and Google’s algorithm is looking for Responsive code.
The upside to Responsive is that you are no longer going to have to figure out the math and resize your site based on the next new gadget or hardware fad that floats by. Interestingly, the way of thinking about web design is changing entirely. Rather than coding for the business, or for the art, the core of design is now centered around what the user experiences, no matter where or how they experience it, and ultimately that’s going to be a good thing for information flow on the Internet and e-commerce. The downside to Responsive is that your website, if it’s been around for a minute, is probably going to need re-coding. If you’re using a CMS system like Joomla, WordPress or Drupal, you can potentially change your theme or template to one that’s Responsive and save yourself the pain of recreation. If you’re not using a content management system, and you’re facing re-development to meet the new, fairly strict, Google algorithm requirements, you should consider migration to a CMS platform while you take care of Responsive. It will make your life easier in the long run.