Responsive Design is quickly becoming a buzzword in web design circles, but if you’re not a designer or developer, you might still be wondering what Responsive Design is, only to be confronted with confusing technical articles. Responsive Design is simply a website or web app that responds to the user, or more specifically, to the user’s device.
It used to be that you could design and build one website, test it in a couple different browsers, and expect it to work fine for everyone. Then, with the advent of smartphones, you also had to build a mobile website. Now, with no less than four different major desktop web browsers, three major smartphone platforms, and a plethora of screen sizes ranging from 3″ to 30″, you might be wondering just how many different websites you need to build in order to accommodate all these different users and devices.
One Site, Many Devices
What we’ve come to realize, is that building separate websites for separate devices is the wrong approach. The average smartphone is on the market for six months to a year, tops. You can’t build for just one phone and assume it’ll work for the rest. And what about tablets? Do you serve them the desktop version or the smartphone version? Do you have to design and build a separate tablet website? This is where responsive design comes in.
With responsive design, we build one site, but ensure that it can adjust itself to fit any situation. This way, your content becomes device-agnostic, while your design readily adapts to any device. Take the new website of The Boston Globe; On a mobile device, everything is laid into one column, and the navigation is tucked away into a drop down. As we move up into larger device sizes, we see the navigation expand, as well as seeing the main content area eventually become a two- and later three-column design.
This solves the problem of just guessing at how your users will browse your site and hoping for the best, while also providing an ideal experience for any user on any device. Additionally, you won’t have nearly as much trouble with future devices, as your site will already be adaptable to almost any situation.
Lose that Pixel-Perfect Attitude
So what are the drawbacks? First, it takes more time to develop a responsive website than a regular one, although usually less time than it does to develop a regular website and a mobile website. Secondly, we have to let go of the idea that a website should look exactly the same, all the time, no matter what. This can be difficult to do, but once we get past that, the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks.
Responsive design ensures that your digital brand will remain current and be experienced ideally for the foreseeable future. Do you think you will incorporate responsive design into your website in the future? Have you had any issues in developing a responsive website? Leave a comment and let me know. I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts.