Forward Thinking Means Responsive Thinking

Forward Mutual Insurance Company website is now in responsive viewing

I often use the phrase “forward-thinking” to describe Forward Mutual Insurance Company. Yes, it comes across rather pun-ish, but, pun or not, I’m proud to give kudos to this —here we go— forward-thinking company. On top of that, I’d like to present Forward’s recently updated website. Ta Da!

Forward Mutual's website on a laptop and iPad

At first glance, Forward’s new site looks very much like its old. In many ways it is.

Here’s how it’s not.

Last spring President and CEO Lois Wiedenhoeft discussed updating their website with new content and a few minor layout changes. We talked target marketing. We talked user-friendliness. And then we talked responsive web design.

Lois, being the forward-thinking CEO that she is, was gung-ho for all of the above, including re-writing the framework in responsive design. Why the extra effort and expense? Especially when some mutual companies don’t even have websites?

Historically, farms were the majority of Forward’s market. Nowadays, its landscape has changed to include city dwellings, country dwellings and hobby farms. The people in Forward’s market have also changed and the mutual now actively targets a younger generation. Forward wants to communicate the same way its market communicates. Nowadays, that’s via mobile devices.

Usability on All Devices

Forward Mutual website on the iphoneResponsive web design is a framework that automatically resizes, hides or moves content to fit any device of the user’s choice. Simply put, responsive design makes a website look good on any device, whether a desktop, tablet or smartphone.

Forward’s previous website looked good on a computer, but not so great on a smartphone. The phone on the left shows Forward’s site in its previous state. It’s the same layout as the computer’s except proportionately smaller and, obviously, much more difficult to read. Also note the photo slideshow, or lack thereof. Most mobile devices don’t accommodate Flash Player so the ol’ standby coding we used to use is now completely out of date.

In comparison, look at the phone on the right. This is how Forward’s website now appears in its responsive form. Each of its elements have automatically resized and re-ordered themselves according to priority. It’s legible. It’s clean. And because Forward now has a larger, more helpful menu, we grouped all the links into a clickable toggle.

Google Rewards Mobile-Friendliness

There’s another reason Forward moved ahead with responsive web design. It’s a very important marketing reason.

In April 2015, Google changed the way its search algorithms rank websites. It now gives top billing to mobile-friendly websites, meaning those that employ responsive web design will be listed in searches before those that do not.

How Mobile-Friendly is Your Website?

When is the last time you’ve checked your website on a mobile device? How legible is it? Is your website coded in responsive design? If you need to be higher in search rankings, drop me a line.

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