Much of what has been published over the last couple of years about responsive website design has surrounded its effect on search rankings. Google has made it very clear that they want, at a minimum, a uniform URL structure that presents the same basic information to people regardless of device. That is at the low end of what they deem as acceptable, and it’s in place to prevent rankings from dropping based upon inconsistencies between devices.
On the high end, Google wants websites that are built on responsive technology that present nearly the exact same page and information, formatted appropriately to the size of the screen and functionality of the device. Many in the SEO world believe that responsive website design will someday aid in improved organic rankings. Some believe that it’s already happening today.
One reason that Google recommends Responsive Design vs. Adaptive Design is the customer experience. Adaptive design websites rely on “user agent detection”. Adaptive websites use this user agent detection code to read which kind of device (phone, tablet, phablet, desktop, laptop, wearable) is visiting the site and then serve a version of the site for that device type. Google has expressly stated that it has found that user agent detection is error-prone and can result in adaptive sites serving the desktop version of the site to mobile devices and vice versa.
What has been lost in the mix is the experience itself. Google and other technology companies don’t just look at whether or not images resize or if text is big enough to read on the small screen. They’re pushing for responsive because, when done right, it can offer a unified experience. There is no other industry where this can be more important than the automotive industry.
The reason is based upon the depth of research. It’s not like buying something off of Amazon. Car buying is normally an extended set of steps that begins with different degrees of research and ends when the decision has been made to seek out an individual car or vehicle type. As a result, car buyers will often visit the same sites or pages over and over again during the process. In North America, it is common for these multiple visits to happen on different devices.
The uniform nature of responsive website design (RWD) makes it ideal for enhancing the car shopping experience online. With RWD, the images, buttons, videos, and text on a page are mostly the same from device to device but presented in a way that makes the most sense. For example, a vehicle details page may have the contact form on the right sidebar when viewed on a desktop, but that contact form can fall in line with the images and information about the vehicle when seen on a mobile device, all aligned within the same column.
With proper RWD, the individual pages can be enhanced for each device and screen size. A perfect example of this would be the addition of a Click-to-Call button that appears on the inventory when the screen is small. Since the small screen usually indicates a smartphone, having that Click-to-Call button makes sense to be available on mobile while it doesn’t make sense to have it present when the page is viewed on a 17” monitor.
Shoppers will often allow gaps between the different phases of their research. By presenting them a responsive experience on your website, you’ll allow for the triggers to remain in place that made them interested in a particular vehicle in the first place. This seamless type of experience enables car buyers to pick up where they left off rather than having to figure out how they got to a particular place on the website the last time they visited.
As you explore your website options and consider the different types of mobile websites available, look deeper into the numbers behind the equation. At the end of the day, a website should encourage lead forms, phone calls, and showroom visits. Adaptive or mobile-only websites might seem to offer a similar experience to the preferred responsive experience, but they do not. Even within the realm of RWD itself, there are good variations and bad variations. As with nearly all things, quality matters. Just because a company slaps an RWD badge on a website does not mean that it’s optimized to bring the proper shopper experience that your customers desire.
Look closely. Let the numbers guide you. Test how each website option operates on multiple devices. Your customers are not limited in the devices that they can use to explore your website. Make sure that you are aware of what they’re seeing and that it puts your dealership’s internet technology in a positive light.