There’s a good reason why Jeremy Fairley called 2014 the year of Responsive Web Design in his recent blog post. It’s because leisure and business travelers are increasingly planning travel across several devices.
According to Google’s research study, The 2013 Traveler, 89 percent of travel planning activities begin on one device and are completed on another type of device. To stay ahead of the curve, travel marketers need to deliver optimized online experiences for desktop, phone, and tablet users. A responsive site is the best way for travel marketers to reach today’s multi-device audience.
What is Responsive Web Design?
Responsive Web Design (RWD) is recommended by Google as the best solution for building a mobile-friendly website. This type of design basically involves one website that delivers an optimized experience on any device. We recommend responsive design that uses server side detection along with media queries, so the site can identify the visitor’s exact device and deliver the optimal layout and content for that visitor. This type of website provides a faster, sleeker experience for all web visitors. Below we’ll look at four reasons why RWD is essential in 2014 and for future-proofing your digital strategy:
1. Responsive Helps You Reach Travelers on Multiple Devices
Smartphones and tablets are increasingly becoming part of the travel booking funnel. In 2013, travel purchases using smartphones and tablets increased by 20 percent, according to Travel Weekly’s 2013 Consumer Trends Survey. Google’s The 2013 Traveler study also revealed an uptick in leisure and business travelers who use their smartphones to access vacation-related information while on a trip.
The Multiple-device trend will only increase in the coming years. By 2018, 91 percent of travelers will own a smartphone and 89 percent will own a tablet, according to a Hudson Crossing study. A responsive website enables your organization to connect with travelers who access your site using multiple devices during different touch points in the travel cycle.
2. It’s Easier (and Less Costly) To Manage One Site
Attracted by the allure of a “quick fix” for reaching mobile travelers, some organizations choose to build a mobile version of their website for smartphone and tablet users. While this may seem low cost at the outset, managing a regular and a mobile version of your website can result in a higher total cost of ownership over the lifetime of the websites. Maintaining web content on multiple sites adds extra time and costs for what should be simple updates. Managing multiple sites also increases the risk of making errors and displaying inaccurate information.
A responsive website involves a single Content Management System (CMS) so that users can edit or update photos, events, videos, blog posts, and more from one single point of entry. Responsive CMSs are intelligently designed to display or streamline content based on the user’s device. For example, when you upload an image to a responsive-ready CMS, the CMS will automatically resize the image to fit different desktop and mobile devices. The varying image sizes live on the server, and the site will always be ready to serve the optimal image size to each visitor type.
3. Responsive Helps You Reach Travelers Who Are Searching
Fifty-eight percent of leisure travelers and 64 percent of business travelers begin the travel booking and planning process with a search, according to Google’s The 2013 Traveler study. Responsive web design can help you to reach more travelers who are searching online by offering greater SEO benefits than a mobile website design. Responsive websites use a single URL for each page of content. This is good for SEO because it tells search engines like Google and Bing that your Events page, for example, is the authoritative source of information for events in your city.
By contrast, mobile websites use separate URLs such as “m.website.com/events” to indicate that the URL is for mobile visitors. This creates a problem called content forking, which means that the same content, your Events page, will have two separate URLs, one for the regular site and one for the mobile site. This disperses the authority and dilutes the SEO value of the Events page across two URLs, which is an inferior result to the single URL system used in responsive design.
4. Responsive Sites Are Built to Handle New Devices and Technologies
First mobile devices came along and changed everything, then tablets, what’s next? In the coming months and years, new devices like wearables and cutting-edge technologies such as the internet of things will change our online experiences and habits even more. Just think about the travel and tourism implications of a device like Google Glass!
RWD involves one set of website code that your organization can adapt to support new devices and user behaviors. With one responsive site, if a new device or technology comes along and changes things (like the tablet has done), then you won’t have to start from scratch again or buy another separate website. An expertly built responsive site should only require updates to the codebase to support new devices and technologies. This increases your site’s shelf life and reduces your costs for future updates.
Does your travel organization effectively reach users across multiple devices? Please leave any questions or thoughts about responsive design in the comments below and I will be happy to respond.
Gregg Shapiro is the Chief Creative Officer for Tempest Interactive Media. Tempest has extensive experience designing and developing websites and conceptualizing and executing digital marketing programs for a variety of destination marketing organizations.