30%-50% of web traffic is via a mobile phone or tablet device..
The emerging popularity of smartphones and tablets has greatly changed the approach of both design and user experience for web developers like myself. Before the arrival of mobile devices with advanced web-browsing capability, we only had to ensure the site looked good on the various desktop browsers.
However, interacting with websites on smartphones and tablets is a whole new ball game. Factors such as Click versus Touch, Screen-size, Pixel-resolution, support for Adobe’s Flash technology, optimized mark-up and many more issues have become major considerations while creating responsive web sites.
But, why do we bother, why is responsive design so important? Before we can answer that we must first understand what “Responsive Web Design” actually is.
What is Responsive Web Design?
Quite simply Responsive Web Design (RWD) is an method of laying-out and coding a website in such a way that it always provides an optimal viewing experience, i.e. ease of reading and navigation with a minimum of resizing, panning, and scrolling, across a wide range of devices.
The designer creating a Responsive Design should ensure that the website’s navigation elements, screen-layouts, text, images, audio/video players and other UI elements re-adjust themselves on a variety of devices. Such an approach will ensure that the customer need not spend extra time and money paying a developer to in create and maintain both a “mobile-site version” and a “desktop-site version” of their website. Two sites means twice as much work.
So that’s Responsive Web Design, now let us understand why Responsive Design is important when creating and supporting your website.
Time & Money
The notion that making a responsive website is expensive is just that, a notion. In fact we build our websites using Themes which have intuitive responsive elements built in. Basically all of our sites respond to the device they are being viewed on. This obviously cuts total development costs, significantly. In addition to that, a responsive design cuts the total ownership cost, by means of taking away the effort to maintain different versions of a website i.e. a “desktop-version”, a “mobile-version”. Thus, in the long term, investing in responsive website design is the smartest decision.
Pervasion of the Mobile Devices
Internet traffic originating from mobile devices is rising exponentially each day. At the time of writing this blog Mobile users form 89 percent of the total Internet subscriber base in Q2 2013. As more and more people get used to browsing the web through their smartphones and tablets, it is foolhardy for any website developer to ignore responsive web design.
While, content is a major factor for any website to succeed, it is the user experience that enables visitors via the device of their choice and preference at any time that attracts them to specific websites. Hence responsive web design is about providing the optimal user experience irrespective of whether they use a desktop computer, laptop, tablet smart-TV or mobile.
Responsive Websites are agnostic to devices and their operating systems. A responsive web design ensures that users get the best and consistent experience of a website on any device of the user’s choice and preference – be that the iPhone, a Google Tablet iPad, smartphones running the Android OS, or the Windows OS and several others. As a result website owners and content publishers can need not exercise the option to build versions of their website for every popular device platform which they expect their audience might be using.
The way ahead
Thus, rather than compartmentalizing website content into disparate, device-specific experiences, it is smarter to adopt the responsive web design approach. That’s not to say there isn’t a business case for separate sites geared toward specific devices; for example, if the user-goals for your mobile content-offering are limited in scope than its desktop equivalent, then serving different content to each might be the best approach.
But that kind of design-thinking does not have to be our default. Now more than ever, digital content is meant to be viewed on a spectrum of different experiences. Responsive web design offers the way forward.