With a majority of users now accessing the Internet from mobile devices rather than from desktop computers, the absolute need for responsive Web design is upon us.

What makes this official is that Google demands it. In April the search giant unleashed "Mobilegeddon," expanding its algorithm to favor websites that are mobile-friendly. This change was designed to ensure that "users will find it easier to get relevant, high-quality search results that are optimized for their devices."

What's more, there's a definite hierarchy of mobile-friendly design patterns on the Web technology totem pole.

Technology is ever evolving. And the only way to avoid being left in its dust is to evolve with it. Unfortunately, the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" mentality plagues the financial services industry. While keeping a website up to date is a relatively easy fix, it is one that many financial advisors are reluctant to tackle.

But now Google is forcing hands. With the latest algorithm update, Google is effectively removing a choice from the table: an unresponsive, unfriendly, unoptimized website. There are ostensibly three remaining frameworks.

  • A mobile optimized site can be built to give a specific device a unique experience because it's a completely different website, URL and all, from the desktop site. That said, mobile optimization is already dated, primarily because the devices themselves change every few months, requiring sites to be re-optimized for compatibility each time.
  • A mobile-friendly website is essentially a compact version of your desktop site. Its design is static and rigid, however, meaning it looks the same across all mobile devices and therefore content does not adjust for a device's best usability.
  • This leaves the best option: a responsive design. This gives you the benefit of a single website, a single URL and the same search engine optimization. Your efforts aren't constantly divided between the upkeep of two of each. The design is fluid and dynamic. It "responds" according to a device's screen size (large or small), as well as its orientation (landscape or portrait), meaning it looks different across all mobile devices. In short, the content adjusts for a device's best usability.

And the real clincher for a responsive choice? Google announced it as its preferred website configuration as far back as 2012.

But even beyond Google's say-so and the general efficiency for your firm, existing and prospective clients expect you to stay current when it comes to technology. They're online on mobile devices, and that's where they expect you to be as well.

If your firm is indeed "all about the client," then you should be rising to meet their needs. So fix your tech or fall behind; adapt or die. If your website isn't responsive, it's dead on arrival.

Kellie Gibson is the marketing writer at Advisor Websites where she manages the company’s blog and contributes to its ebook publications, newsletters and various marketing campaigns.

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