18 Jun Why responsive design is here to stay

Responsive design has been around for a little while now, and has been one of the most exciting (and liberating) things to happen to web design since CSS based layouts. The importance of its uptake has been a little lost and lumped in with “phone version” for web.

It’s no secret that smart phone use for browsing is sharply on the rise, and websites need to work on more devices and screen sizes than ever before. Up till now companies would either make a ‘cut down’ version of their site, to be accessed by mobile users “on the go”, or (most) would just let their users ‘pinch and zoom’ to navigate through the full desktop site on a tiny screen.

In a lot of cases, tablets are replacing laptops and desktop PCs in the home, making the mobile device the only way they access the internet. It’s no longer a ‘nice feature’ but a requirement for a full version of websites to be accessible on any device.

It’s not just people ‘on the go’ that are using mobile devices to access websites. Many sit with a tablet or phone on the couch and surf while watching TV – often looking up an ad they just saw. Unless you’ve got substantial research, you will run into trouble if you try to make assumptions about how your users will want to interact with your site.

So there’s a few things that can be done for the mobile audience.

  • Create a separate mobile device site (preferably with all of the content accessible)
  • Have a mobile app
  • Make your site responsive

Separate Site for Mobile Devices

Having a separate site for mobile devices certainly gives you the most control, however you effectively end up with two sites worth of content to maintain (known as content forking), and all content changes need to be done twice. No thanks!

Mobile App

There are typically two types of Apps; Native and Web. Native apps have the added benefit of being able to access features of the device, such as the camera and contact list. Given how quickly technology changes, unless you’ve got a giant budget and a dedicated team, it’s always seemed a little pointless to design for specific devices. New models and different screen sizes are forever being developed, it’s like trying to sweep sand off the beach trying to keep up with it.

Responsive Site

Responsive sites work by accessing the size of the screen or device and arranging the content differently to display better in the available space. This also has advantages for desktop, given that screen sizes vary considerably. The process of evaluating the different elements on your site when making it responsive is a great way of cutting back on the clutter and you can end up with a much more organised, easy to navigate site.

Travis Crawford