In recent years, we have seen a steady growth of mobile devices being used to surf the web, and as a result, a steady rise in clients requesting to have a mobile version of their site. Designers and developers alike responded by creating a desktop and mobile version of a website. This approach was effective for a while, but with the ever-growing landscape of the web, it became more of a problem than a solution. Ethan Marcotte explains:
“Mobile browsing is expected to outpace desktop-based access within three to five years. Two of the three dominant video game consoles have web browsers (and one of them is quite excellent). We’re designing for mice and keyboards, for T9 keypads, for handheld game controllers, for touch interfaces. In short, we’re faced with a greater number of devices, input modes, and browsers than ever before.”
Enter responsive web design. The dictionary defines “responsive” as reacting quickly and positively. In web speak, responsive design refers to a website that reacts according to the screen size, platform, device and even orientation. The advantages are centered around cost-effectiveness and user experience. For designers, it allows us to streamline the design and development process by using a mix of flexible grids and CSS media queries. Creating one design and a few stylesheets allows us to shorten the time it takes to create a web site.
For clients, visitors enjoy an improved user experience no matter what device they use to view a website. Gone are the days when slideshows looked beautiful on big screens but become a nightmare to navigate around when using mobile devices. Now we control what information is delivered and what is hidden within the same page depending on the size of the screen.
Responsive design is continuously evolving, and new projects aimed to improve upon it are developed everyday. Ultimately, the decision to have a responsive site is influenced by factors that go beyond the technology, such as overall web strategy. Just because something is cool doesn’t mean it will be effective. Designers and clients should not treat web site design like pet projects where we test out things and hope it works out in the end.
By: Emilio Servigon, Web Designer, Indicia