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What is Responsive Website Design?

Web Fundamentals - May 16, 2013 - 0 Comments

Have you ever pulled up a website on your smartphone or tablet in a microscopic font?  You zoom in, swipe around, and lose your place—if it’s too tedious, why bother? Most visitors won’t.

Prior to the advent of mobile technology, websites were design to display on desktop monitors only.  Desktop oriented sites don’t display well on phones and smaller tablets that have less screen space.

Responsive web design allows a website to shape itself to the device that’s reading it, and optimizes its display for that format, no matter the size of the screen.

If I am viewing the site on my smartphone or tablet, the content column might narrow, enlarging the font, making the site more navigable.  Side by side columns may stack resulting in no need to scroll left and right.  That’s the beauty of responsive web design. One website is written to adapt to multiple devices with ease, providing a quality experience for its entire audience.

How does it work?

A few general tools such as “media queries,” “flexible images,” and “fluid grids,” allow pages to change their proportions based on the screen size being used.  Font-sizes are dynamically adjusted and images are allowed to shrink to appropriate size or alternately sized images are displayed.

Why do we need it?

“Day by day, the number of devices, platforms, and browsers that need to work with your site grows. Responsive web design represents a fundamental shift in how we’ll build websites for the decade to come.”– Jeffrey Veen

According to PEW Research, more than half of US adults own a mobile device or tablet.  Google states that smartphones and tablets already have a whopping 67% market share.  Those numbers continue to increase at an astounding rate.

How is it, then, that an astounding 70% of websites are not mobile ready? In our fast-growing, multi-tasking, information-driven world, we must create sites with every format in mind.

The Design Factor

It is called responsive design for a reason. Effective websites require a strong design element, making them not only easy to use, but also attractive to the viewer on an array of devices.  Whether or not they are cognizant of it, consumers care about beauty as well as functionality. Good web designers take into consideration multiple factors and layout options to ensure that website content is being presented in an artful, yet purposeful way.

The Benefits in a Nutshell

Ease of Viewing and Functionality:  Websites are optimized for all formats. Frustration levels that might send a user to another site are eliminated by purposeful design.

More business:  Mobile-friendly websites reach more customers. A quality user experience=more revenue.

Smart spending:  No separate app is needed, saving technology costs. 60% of users, according to PEW research, prefer mobile ready sites to apps when viewing the news; responsive design is a wise investment.

Time saved:  Where dedicated mobile sites require you to maintain two versions of the site, responsive sites can be updated for all devices by maintain just one website.

What does it cost? 

Employing responsive design techniques does require additional design and development time.  In general, a responsive project takes 30% to 50% longer than a traditional desktop only web design project.  However, in most cases it is still more affordable than doing a traditional desktop site and a dedicated mobile site.

The bottom line? 

With responsive web design, you don’t need to have multiple platform specific sites—one site will effectively and efficiently reach the widest audience possible by being friendly for many different display sizes.

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