Being Responsive with Website Design

When a traffic light turns red, we stop our cars.

When it rains, we grab an umbrella.

When The Kardashians appear on our TV, we turn it off.

These are called responses; a survival technique we developed as a result of changing conditions.

Life, and technology are in a perpetual state of motion. Our website, your website, and well basically every website that exists are no exception; it’s a fact that the conditions in which people view websites are continuously changing.

One minute they’re using a mobile phone, the next minute they’re in the office using a 30-inch desktop display. Later that night they might be scrolling from a tablet device, before jumping on a laptop.

As users increasingly change interfaces their expectations also change; people expect to be able to browse the web on their phone or tablet just as easily as they browse the web on a desktop computer.

Designers listened. The first step came with the introduction of smart phones. Every website was to have a normal ‘desktop’ version, and as a bonus, a ‘mobile’ version. However technology continued its march forward, soon proving this to be a redundant practice as there were now several new viewing platforms for current website designs were not suitable.

For many businesses creating a website version for each resolution and new device would be impossible, or at least impractical, so along came what is now known as responsive design: the approach that suggests that design and development should respond to the user’s behavior and environment based on screen size, platform and orientation.

The practice consists of a mix of flexible grids and layouts, images and an intelligent use of CSS media queries. As the user switches from their laptop to iPad, the website should automatically switch to accommodate for resolution, eliminating the need for a different design and development phase for each new gadget on the market.

We live in a tech-rich age in which responsive web design is drifting away from the pool of passing fads and rapidly entering the realm of standard practice. In fact, the magnitude of this paradigm shift feels as fundamental as the transition from table-based layouts to CSS. Simply put, this is a very different way of designing websites and it represents the future.

There are however instances in which responsive design is not suitable.

For example, the main function of your site is for users to interact with others or with your site then a responsive design, which simply repriortises content, may not be the ideal solution. Also for a large retail store chain, the experience for the user on a mobile device may be focused on finding a store, as opposed to researching information.

Neither is responsive web design a good ‘bolt-on’ solution for existing sites. Designing for mobile first is one of the methodologies often employed in a Responsive Web Design workflow, and it is not recommended existing websites try to re-jig things to be responsive.

To us, responsive web design is ideal for new site builds that are focused on presenting content to their audience, rather than websites that require heavy user interaction; Corporate websites and blogs for example.

Have you considered Responsive Web Design? We would love to hear your thoughts.

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