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Updated Apr 10, 2024

How to Transform Your Static Site into a Responsive Website

With consumer reliance on smartphones, your site must be responsive. It's not an option anymore. Here's how to transform a static site.

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Sean Peek, Senior Analyst & Expert on Business Ownership
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A static website looks the same on various devices, meaning the desktop version doesn’t adapt to a mobile device. While a static website typically has great SEO and loading speed, it also has limited functionality and personalization. 

A responsive website, on the contrary, ensures the site looks good on every device, which means it will adjust accordingly whether it is viewed on a desktop, smartphone or tablet. This type of site is typically the more attractive option for businesses looking to draw in visitors. Here’s how to transform your static site into a responsive website. 

What is the difference between static and responsive websites?

Since the earliest days of the Internet, web designers have focused on creating sites that function within the contexts of the screens or devices on which they would appear. These contexts have been rather uniform and basic. However, demands have heightened in conjunction with technological advancements. From massive desktop screens and laptops to tablets and smartphones, designers are required to think beyond limited contexts.

Editor’s note: Looking for the right web design service for your business? Fill out the below questionnaire to have our vendor partners contact you about your needs.

More than a decade ago, web designer Ethan Marcotte introduced the concept of the fluid grid. He wrote an article that explored the concept of a design that changed depending on context. In it, he referenced the concept of creating columns of content with widths determined by a percentage of the browser window. As the size of the context changed, so would the size of the content. This would eliminate the need to recreate similar designs for each type of context. Because this fluidity allowed users to view similar content on a page regardless of the device being used, it revolutionized web design.

From this concept, responsive websites were born. Unlike static websites, which stay the same regardless of the device or screen, a responsive site has a fluid layout that changes to fit any screen. This contributes to an overall more attractive interface than a static site, which uses a fixed and simple HTML code.

While it’s cheaper and easier to create a static site, a responsive site offers a more seamless and mobile-first approach. The web content does not change depending on the device used to access it; however, the sizing and display do. When a user visits a responsive website on a mobile device or tablet, the web content will stretch or shrink to fit the screen more appropriately. This offers a more attractive view than a static site.

Responsive sites are often confused with dynamic sites, which have fluid web pages that display different content each time. Dynamic sites use web scripting code like JSP, PHP or ASP, and tend to load slower than static and responsive sites. Unlike a responsive site, and similar to a static site, dynamic sites’ proportions stay the same across all devices and screens.

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Responsive sites are the most popular site, as responsive web design delivers the best user experience regardless of the desktop, mobile device or tablet used. In today’s highly mobile environment, more business owners create websites with this mobile-first approach.

How do you transform a static site into a responsive website?

For site owners like you, this means you no longer have to create a separate site for mobile users. Now, to transition to a responsive design, you must do the following:

  1. Choose a framework. As you can imagine, switching to responsiveness takes a lot of work. Fortunately, frameworks such as Twitter Bootstrap and Foundation can do the heavy lifting for you. Instead of starting from scratch, these frameworks allow you to modify and upgrade your existing site’s code.
  2. Convert the code. Be sure to review everything you need to know about converting fixed width. You’ll want to add meta tags such as width=device-width, initial-scale=1 and maximum-scale=1. Furthermore, when moving from a fixed layout to responsive design, establish “breakpoints” that will trigger CSS style rules. The more you identify components suitable for replacement, the easier it will be to convert your site’s code. Take it in bite-sized chunks by moving one page at a time.
  3. Review your site. Test your converted site on multiple devices to ensure that everything is responding accordingly. Try visiting your site on an iPhone, tablet and other devices with varying screen sizes. The more you test your responsive site, the better the user experience will be in the end. Also remember to invest in responsive video, as embedded videos from sites like YouTube have fixed sizes. Another consideration to check is whether or not you have printer-friendly styles.
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Transforming your static site into a responsive site will save you time in the long run, especially when it comes to tracking data and analytics. This pivot is relatively seamless but can lead to an uptick in site traffic and conversion rates.

Why should businesses have responsive websites? 

Here are some reasons why you should create a responsive website for your business.

They’ve become the norm.

Responsive web design has become the standard for businesses across all industries. Adopting this mobile-first approach will ensure you’re keeping up with competitors and meeting consumers where they are. 

They have better SEO.

Because of their mobile- and user-friendliness, responsive websites are prioritized by Google and are ranked higher than those with other web designs. In fact, because many people use their mobile devices for searches, Google prioritizes mobile-first sites in the results. 

Responsive web design also contributes to a more positive user experience, which incentivizes visitors to stay on your website longer. Load speed is also higher and bounce rates are lower for responsive sites. Both of these factors positively affect SEO and Google rankings.

They improve the mobile experience.

There’s nothing worse than visiting a website on your smartphone and experiencing slow loading speeds or distorted images and content. As mentioned above, a responsive website will load more quickly and efficiently on mobile devices than a static site. This is important as many consumers are going mobile and using smartphones and other devices over desktops. With a mobile-first approach, responsive sites cater to the majority of users, providing proportionate images and attractive displays that are easy to read and scroll through.

>> Learn more: Learn by Example: Great Mobile-Friendly E-commerce Websites

They attract more leads and conversions.

A responsive website will attract more visitors and generate more conversions due to its professional look and adaptability when accessed on different devices. If your load speed isn’t fast enough, visitors will leave your site and you won’t be able to turn leads into customers. Creating a responsive website, however, ensures an engaging experience for visitors.

Additionally, a responsive website ensures visitors have access to exactly what they need without having to navigate various web pages. This will increase your brand’s reputation and credibility, generating more trust in your business. 

They provide you with clearer analytics.

Because you have one design across multiple devices, responsive websites allow you to track and measure analytics more easily and accurately. You won’t need to track various user journeys, funnels, conversions and other data across multiple versions of your website. This will help you develop more consolidated reports and data so you can make the proper changes needed to drive even more traffic. 

 Drew Hendricks contributed to this article. 

author image
Sean Peek, Senior Analyst & Expert on Business Ownership
Sean Peek co-founded and self-funded a small business that's grown to include more than a dozen dedicated team members. Over the years, he's become adept at navigating the intricacies of bootstrapping a new business, overseeing day-to-day operations, utilizing process automation to increase efficiencies and cut costs, and leading a small workforce. This journey has afforded him a profound understanding of the B2B landscape and the critical challenges business owners face as they start and grow their enterprises today. In addition to running his own business, Peek shares his firsthand experiences and vast knowledge to support fellow entrepreneurs, offering guidance on everything from business software to marketing strategies to HR management. In fact, his expertise has been featured in Entrepreneur, Inc. and Forbes and with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
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