Why responsive design makes sense, sometimes

The responsive design trend for websites has finally reached the mainstream, almost three years since it was first debuted by Ethan Marcotte in his article on A list Apart.

Responsive design could be seen as a fad, much like the design style of web 2.0. But it has a more fundamental aim: to ensure a user gets the best possible experience from a website, regardless of the device they use to access it.


What is responsive design?

Often referred to as RWD, it's a design technique that ensures a single website is multi-device compatible.


Responsive Web Design

A mobile device doesn't always mean the user is on the move.

In 2012, 53% of people in the UK were 'dual screening' (using phone/tablet/laptop whilst watching TV)

2012 Mobile Internet Usage Statistics, Paul Rogers

Just because a user is viewing your website on their smartphone or tablet, it doesn't mean they're actually on the move. They could be lounging on the couch at home or sitting at their desk in the office.

Therefore, why deliver content based on the user's device? Why not simply deliver all your content to a user in any easy-to-use format and let them decide. Responsive design makes sense because it gives control to the user.


Advantages

First and foremost, you only need to create a single website – no separate mobile version. That means only one site to update.

There's also no need to worry about what website content your users should access, based on the device they're using. You can sleep soundly, knowing your whole website is universally available.

What's more, your users can digest the information easily, because your website now offers them a tailor-made experience for their smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer.

Going with responsive design means better search engine optimisation (SEO) and social media marketing, thanks to having a single URL for each page. Search behemoth Google is a fan of responsive design:

Google recommends webmasters follow the industry best practice of using responsive web design, namely serving the same HTML for all devices and using only CSS media queries to decide the rendering on each device.

Google

Last but not least, as devices continue to flood the market, you won't be struggling to keep up. Your website will automatically deliver your content in an elegant way, based on the device's screen size. Have you considered how your website works on a web-ready TV or even an internet enabled refrigerator? With responsive design your website will have a significant amount of future proofing.


The disadvantages (yes, I'm afraid there are some)

There are a few negatives of responsive design, mainly linked to the process of building and creating the site. To get the best results from a responsive website, you need to address issues of content right from the start, because this will drive the whole design process.

It has been said a million times before, but it has to be said again now, content is king.

Planning a responsive site generally takes longer than planning a generic standard website. You need more carefully to address what content will be displayed and how, based on the various break points (screen sizes). Content hierarchy also has to be taken into account, to ensure your website delivers the best possible experience for your users. The process of creating a responsive site requires a lot of interaction between the team creating the site and the client. Good communication is important to ensure the project's objectives are met.

Many types of website don't lend themselves to responsive design. Sites such as online applications, forums, intranets and online stores are better candidates for a dedicated web app or even a native app. Reviewing your content and your goals will tell you if responsive design is right for you.


Responsive design means happy website users

The time, cost and effort to build a great website using responsive design may prove too much for many. However, your users will thank you for it. And isn't that the most important thing - satisfied customers?

Sam Burrows
Sam Burrows
SENIOR DESIGNER Sam BurrowsView Profile

Sam is a Senior Designer and has 8 years of experience designing high quality, engaging websites for a wide variety of sectors.

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