It’s no longer news that mobile Internet use is on the rise. Users are viewing your website on their phones, and they are judging you based on what they see. The solutions? Responsive web design, a technique that allows your website to rearrange dynamically based on the screen size so that it always displays correctly.

For website owners, these are confusing times. Do you need a new website? Can you make your existing website responsive? How do you decide? Let’s walk through some of the main factors involved in this decision.

How does your site currently display on mobile?

Do you have a mobile site?

If it is not currently responsive, does your site redirect to a mobile version of the site? For some businesses, a mobile site is sufficient for converting customers. This is especially true if your potential customers are primarily using your website to find very specific, limited information, such as your business hours or contact information. If your industry is such that customers would be using your website to research your business before making a decision, a mobile site may be too limited. In this case, you would benefit from a responsive website.

Mobile sites can also be inconvenient if the information on your website is updated regularly, as the mobile site usually has to be updated separately from the desktop version of the site. This can lead to inaccurate information representing your business if you make a change on one and forget to make the same change on the other. However, if the information on your website does not change frequently and is adequately represented on your mobile site, then it is probably safe to hold off on the responsive site or redesign for now.

Is your site easy to read on mobile?

If your site is not responsive or doesn’t include a mobile version, you should really go ahead and have your website made responsive. If your budget is a concern and you need to prioritize multiple initiatives, open your site on a mobile device and ask yourself these questions:

  • Is it easy to resize and read the text?
  • Is it easy to click on the menu buttons to go to different pages of the site?
  • Can you click on a phone number to call?

If you answered yes to every question, you can wait a few months while you put together the budget to make your website responsive, but you can’t put it off forever. If you answered no to any of these questions, there is no time to lose – you need to go ahead and make your site responsive.

How does your website perform in general?

A lot of business owners base decisions about their website based entirely on what they like or dislike. The hard truth is that personal preference is not the most important factor when it comes to web design. Contrary to what you might think, web design is not entirely subjective. UX, or user experience, is not just an art but a science that can be strategically influenced by design decisions made by an expert.

So besides whether or not you like the way your site looks, how should you decide if it’s time for a redesign? Look at the numbers.

By adding mobile traffic as a segment in Google Analytics, you can easily compare your site’s performance on mobile devices to its overall performance. Bounce rate, outlined above, is one good indicator. Google defines bounce rate as the percentage of single pageview visits to a website – an oversimplification, but a decent definition for most scenarios. The lower your bounce rate, the better.

Average bounce rate actually varies by industry, but around 50% can be seen as pretty typical. On mobile devices, the bounce rate will usually be 10-20% higher. So now that you have this information, what should you do with it?

If your site has a bounce rate lower than about 60% overall with a difference of less than 20% for mobile traffic, your site is performing at about average. No changes needed.

If your site has an overall bounce rate of 60% or less, but your mobile traffic has a bounce rate that is more than 20% higher than your overall bounce rate, that means your site is performing well enough on desktop but is not converting mobile traffic. In this case, you do not necessarily need to redesign your whole website, but you should have your website made responsive to provide a better use experience for mobile traffic.

If your site has a bounce rate higher than 60%, you would probably benefit from a full redesign, as well as a reevaluation of your marketing strategy to be sure that you are driving the right traffic to your site.

Of course, these numbers aren’t set in stone. What is considered to be a “good” bounce rate can vary considerably from site to site. You can learn more about average bounce rates here.

What does your budget allow?

Looking at the data will help you prioritize any changes that need to be made to your website, but before you get too far along, it is important to take a look at your budget as well. Your website is the main representation of your business online, so it’s worth investing in. However, it’s important to understand your options if your budget is limited.

A full redesign for your website is going to be the most intensive in terms of both cost and time; however, the results are also the most impressive. Adapting an existing website to be responsive, on the other hand, is typically a low-cost project with a quick turnaround. It will not save a poorly designed site, but it can make a big difference for a site that is performing well on desktop but falling short on mobile.

One important exception to note, however, is when a website has a technical structure that does not lend itself to being made responsive. While it may still be possible to adapt the site to display responsively in this scenario, it may not be cost-effective if the amount of work required starts to approach a complete redevelopment of the site. If this is the case, you are better off with either a full redesign or a separate mobile site if you need to keep your current design. This scenario is not very common, but it is more likely to be the case for older websites, particularly those built using tables.

Making these improvements to your website may seem like a significant investment, but consider the most costly option of all: losing potential customers to your competitor due to poor user experience.