Contributor Bryson Meunier suggests the percentage of sites you believe are adopting responsive web design may be greatly exaggerated.
Depending upon who you ask, responsive web design is either used by 82% of webmasters or 11.8% of webmasters.
Recently on Google+, the Google Webmaster team asked their followers to tell them which mobile configuration strategy they use, and 82% of the 652 votes (at the time of this writing) responded with responsive web design.
Four percent said dynamic serving, 6% said separate mobile URLs, and only 7% said their site is not mobile friendly.
If the 82% responsive web design (RWD) seems high to you, you’re not alone.
Well-known SEO and Search Engine Land editor Barry Schwartz agreed in his post on the poll, saying “I bet this is far from what the web looks like and I’d love for Google to share stats on the whole web. I bet it is more like 80% of the web pages on the internet are not mobile friendly.”
Barry should head to Vegas with bets like that, as Akamai released figures late last year (November 2014) that tell a very different story about the makeup of the Web than what Google’s poll suggests.
In a post outlining his research, Akamai’s Guy Podjarny presented the information that Barry expressed hope about getting from Google. Akamai’s figures showed that just 18.7% of a list of 10,000 top-tier web sites is responsive. The percentage decreases in proportion to the traffic the site gets.
When it comes to the top 100 sites analyzed, only 11.8% of these sites use responsive web design.
Brian Klais of Pure Oxygen Labs did a similar analysis in 2013 with the Fortune 100, and found that only 11% of them are responsive. That number has likely increased in two years, given the rate at which webmasters have been adopting responsive web design.
The Akamai study suggests the move to responsive sites is happening more slowly on the top 100 sites as compared to the top 1,000 or top 10,000, perhaps because larger companies are more likely to have multiple stakeholders and more complex sites.
But the fact that two independent studies show through data that responsive web design is used by at most 18% of the web shows that the 82% from Google’s poll is not representative.
The good news for responsive is that, although adoption in practice isn’t nearly as high as Google’s unscientific survey would suggest, responsive sites are growing quickly, to the point where they are now catching up with separate URLs as the dominant mobile site configuration method.
Sites with separate URLs for mobile and desktop (“Mdot”) were found 21% of the time in Akamai’s study, and responsive web design (“RWD”) was right behind with 17% of the total. A specific breakdown of dynamic serving and not-mobile-optimized wasn’t provided — together they with totaled 62%.
It’s 2015, and in a world where Google sends more traffic from smartphones than desktops it shouldn’t be surprising that more and more webmasters are making their content mobile-friendly. If you’re not one of them, pick one of the three site configurations that Google supports that works for you and start on that path today.
However, if you need to justify your actions to decision makers, don’t use Google’s unscientific poll to demonstrate that the great majority of websites today use responsive Web design. If they’re not that savvy it might work, but if they read this column or have seen Akamai’s data, you’ll need to produce more than a poll of 700 people to convince them responsive is the way to go.
Want a better way? Stay tuned to next month’s column, where I will give you a strategy for justifying investment in mobile SEO that goes beyond any specific site configuration.