As students, faculty, and staff increasingly access information through mobile devices, they expect to find useful information in a quick and efficient manner. As a result, higher education websites need to ensure that desired information and services can be easily and effectively accessed. Responsive web design is an approach that applies standards-based technologies to create websites that can automatically adjust to fit any device, browser, screen size or orientation.
Mobile technology adoption continues to rise, especially among today’s college students who are more technologically savvy than ever before. As a matter of fact, it seems everyone is attached at the hip to their mobile devices.
The typical 18-34 year-old college student now owns an average of seven technology devices1 - 72% of them owning smartphones and nearly 38% owning tablets.2
More than ever before students are spending time on their devices, and it is impacting the way they interact with your information. They expect responsiveness. If you are delivering your content in a mobile friendly and engaging format, you are well on your way to reaching your ever-expanding, on-the-go audience.
85% of cell phone users aged 18-29 use their phones to go online.3
 "College Explorer" re:fuel, June 2013.
 “Student Mobile Device Survey 2013: National Report on College Students,” Pearson, April 2013.
 ”Cell Internet Use 2013,” PewResearchCenter, September 2013.
Institutional websites are now at the heart of any campus’s digital marketing efforts to attract prospective students. Your website will be one of the first places, if not the first, where prospective students will turn to learn about your institution. A close second are statewide or system-wide student advising sites.
Mobile device usage continues to rise, and its influence is transforming the college search experience. As students research colleges and universities online from their smartphones or tablets, it is critical that you make sure that your online content is not only accurate and engaging, but presentable and readable on any size screen. Otherwise, you run the risk of driving prospective students away.
77% of high-school seniors rated college websites as the most influential resource for their college search, and 71% have looked at college websites on their mobile devices.4
 “2014 E-Expectations Report: The Online Preferences of College-Bound High School Seniors and Their Parents,” Noel-Levitz, July 2014.
Creating a responsive website inherently leads to prioritizing and managing online content. Anyone accessing information from a desktop monitor can view a good deal of content without scrolling, compared to a small smartphone screen. If a person doesn’t instantly see what they want on a desktop monitor, they can easily glance around the page to find it. On a smartphone a person may have to scroll endlessly or zoom and shrink text to discover the content of interest.
If a user lands on your mobile website and doesn’t see the content they are looking for immediately, there’s a 61% chance they will leave and go to another website.5
Responsive web design influences you to do an inventory of your online content in order to display what’s important and discard what’s not. Smart content prioritization helps your users find what they need, more efficiently.
 ”Mobile-Friendly Sites Turn Visitors Into Customers,” Google, September 2012.
Higher education stakeholders are always thinking about how to reach students, and today many spend a great deal of time and money making sure students can find them online. Being mobile responsive not only gives you the benefit of displaying your information correctly across all types of devices, but it also provides the advantage of being found on search engines.
In June 2012, Google made the recommendation that websites convert to mobile responsive design.6
Google uses one URL for all devices, which makes it more efficient for them to discover and index your content. It also allows users to easily share, interact and link to your content driving site traffic. Responsiveness will ultimately improve your SEO rank, getting you in front of the people you want to reach the most and leveraging your investment in search engine marketing.
 ”Recommendations for Building Smartphone-Optimized Websites,” Google, July 2012.
Mobile technology has become an integral part of how everyone manages their daily lives, connects with their friends, and engages with their world. As a result of being hyper-connected, we expect real-time, personalized, aesthetically pleasing content to be delivered quickly and easily when visiting websites.
Recently Google has hinted that not only will responsiveness be key to SEO, but a great user experience will become a decisive factor as they roll out future ranking algorithms.7
Creating a mobile responsive site provides a significant opportunity to broaden your reach to students, parents, faculty, alumni and the community at large. Creating meaningful connections that are personalized and attractive to browse on all types of devices will create a positive user experience and you’re sure to see an increase in the amount of time people are willing to spend on your site.
 ”Google May Add Mobile User Experience To Its Ranking Algorithm,” Search Engine Land, October 2014.
Creating higher education websites is not a simple endeavor, as they must be designed and built to be flexible enough to meet the needs of many audiences – students, parents, faculty, staff, alumni and the whole community. Responsive web design is the answer to building websites that are flexible, powerful and adaptable.
AcademyOne understands the importance and impact of this. We build mobile responsive solutions for our clients that streamlines their online presence, validates them as technologically savvy and gives their users the best experience possible. To read more about how we help our clients be mobile responsive, check out PA Transfer and Articulation Center Redesigned as Mobile Responsive.
With the Spring 2014 mobile responsive redesign of PA TRAC, students, faculty and advisors are staying longer and viewing more information - with a 35% increase in the average length of a visit and 42% increase in the average number of pages viewed during a visit compared to the same timeframe last year.
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AcademyOne is a consulting and software development firm working in the higher education sphere. We deliver industry-leading solutions to states and institutions who wish to improve student retention and degree completion rates, especially among the growing population of nontraditional learners.