Responsive sites: Pokemon Go Turns One; Reflections on 2016

Mike Grill // July 7, 2017

Last year, it was hard to have a conversation with someone around this time. I was in Philadelphia and it seemed like everyone, including the people I was with were playing Pokemon Go!. You could tell immediately where traps were and I saw a couple near accidents from people who were glued to their screens. I had played Niantic’s previous game, Ingress, to some success since I lived in a portal rich area and walked my dogs daily, but I never joined the Pokemon Go! craze. Some of the theories in this post are based purely on observations and assumptions that I made last summer. With Pokemon Go! celebrating its first year, I thought it would be fun to tie in some theories to the game.


Google’s AMP Rollout in 2016

Last summer, I was steeped in three things: wedding prep, ultimate Frisbee, and SEO. Google rolled out a new set of rules, including AMP – Accelerated Mobile Pages – which threw SEO things into a bit of a spin for a week or so. Google had been pushing for better mobile capabilities of sites for a long time, and for the most part, plenty of sites had optimized for mobile, but these changes docked sites that weren’t responsive.


It’s little wonder that Google would push for changes like that since 2016 is the year that marked more mobile internet users than desktop internet users. Pokemon Go was extremely illustrative of just how many people were on their phones. Previous to the very physical demonstrations I got walking around a few different cities last summer, I assumed that it was the younger generation of smartphone users who were using their phones to access the internet. Pokemon Go! helped me realize that pretty much everyone had a smartphone, that nearly every smartphone had internet access, how powerful necessitating responsive sites was, and what AMP could mean for the internet.


What is a Responsive Site?

If you play with your screen size on your desktop, you can find out if a site is responsive or not.

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Desktop view of a responsive site

This is what the Businesstastic site looks like for anyone using a computer, whether it is a laptop, desktop, Chromebook, or anything with a screen that is larger than 10”.


However, smartphones and tablets have screens smaller than computers, and before responsive site design, this is how the Businesstastic site would have looked on your smartphone:

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If Businesstastic wasn’t responsive, this is what you’d see


It would have been up to you to slide around the website, find menus, and attempt to read any content that was larger than your screen’s size. Inconvenient, but definitely a first world problem.


Last summer, Google started docking non-mobile responsive websites. When you look at the Businesstastic site on your smartphone, or reduce the window size on your desktop, you see a site that is much easier to use and view.

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This is what Businesstastic looks like on a smartphone


Everything fits into the screen size of a smartphone. There is no panning left or right, the ubiquitous hamburger menu is present, and all of the images and text are scaled down so that they do not looked squished or stretched.


Responsive Sites and Pokemon Go!

Making everything fit so that a site looks good on a smartphone started making a ton of sense last summer while so many people were glued to their phones. Pokemon Go! was praised in some corners for getting folks out of the house and out and about, but a lot of those people who were being lauded for getting out of the house, wouldn’t have done so without the internet.


Granted, lots of major sites like Facebook, Yelp, and Twitter have apps – they still require the internet – that do not require a mobile site to cater to most mobile users. What about the restaurants, bars, shops, and transportation sites that users had to access without the help of apps? I’d be willing to bet, offhand, that the sites which weren’t responsive saw a massive uptick in bounce rate.


Making a site responsive is something that is pretty easy for a platform like Businesstastic, WordPress, or Squarespace where most of the content, images, and other site features are based on blocks. The blocks simply shift around in order of importance and show up where they have been instructed to when accessed by a smaller screen.
Got questions about how to make your site mobile responsive, or looking for an affordable platform? Contact us!

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