Why responsive web design is important
When mobile phones started to become internet enabled (remember WAP?) people wanted to access certain information on the move. Checking train times, the weather, or keeping up with the footy scores on a standard desktop site meant difficult navigation, large slow downloads, big bills and an all-round poor user experience.
Many businesses realised the need to cater for mobile users, and until fairly recently many opted for a separate “mobile” version of their website. You may have notice a few yourself. You know, the ones starting with “m.somethingorother” instead of “www”.
These mobile sites are completely separate from their larger desktop siblings and have reduced functionality and content. This toned down version means users are only able to load and use the very basic of site content and functionality, and ultimately miss out on the information they may be expecting to find. Separate mobile sites come with logistical problems too – two sites equals two things to design, build and manage. That means ongoing cost and time implications and all for a less enjoyable experience for the user. Not a great solution is it?
Another issue with mobile sites is what mobile device do you build them for? There are too many different screen sizes and differing capabilities to do them all so which do you choose? How many would you need?
Well, with Responsive Web Design the answer is easy.
What is Responsive Web Design?
Responsive Web Design is a collection of techniques that allow a website to flex and adapt to the size of screen it’s being viewed on. Someone opening your site on a small smartphone will be shown the same site as the person opening it on their laptop but the site will have noticed the constraints and automatically reformatted to give the user an experience better suited to their device. No more loading a huge website and having to zoom in and out to find the content you’re looking for. Responsive web design takes into account interaction too and makes your site easier to use by acknowledging and integrating things like touch screens to aid navigation.
As the web continues to evolve it’s becoming ever more clear that the main driver to a website is not fancy-pants eye candy, but solid, valuable, and shareable content. Responsive design explores the implications of limited screen real estate and ease of access not only for structure but forces us to consider our messaging and content on-site by adopting a ‘mobile first’ strategy.