The Importance of Responsive Website Design
Who doesn’t have a smartphone these days? These little devices have changed the way we consume online content and connect with each other for good. They have also changed the way designers and developers approach the user experience (UX). How can a beautifully designed website for the desktop environment offer the same experience to a user viewing it on a mobile device? What used to be all fixed layouts, simple clicks and single resolution are suddenly fluid layouts, touches/gestures and multi-resolution.The web community was faced with a big problem - do we design one website for desktops and another for smartphones, doubling development time and leaving us with two sites to now maintain? Or do we find a better way? Being a smart bunch it was quickly decided the answer was no, and being resourceful (in particular Ethan Marcotte), Responsive Web Design quickly became the standard, better way.
So what is Responsive Website Design?
Responsive Web Design (RWD) requires the design and coding of a website in such a way that the website provides an optimal user experience across a wide range of devices from desktops to tablets and phones. The first thing a responsive website does when viewed in a browser is to fire a media query which tells the site what width and height the screen is. Once it knows this it can then adjust the design and content accordingly to ensuring navigation, image, text and other elements can all be accessed and consumed with ease. It is up to the designers and developers to build a site that delivers a positive user experience across all devices. Responsive web design can take a little longer to build but the benefits are massive.
Why is it important?
Although the initial build might require an investment of time, a great deal of time is then saved in managing content for just one site rather multiple sites for multiple devices. Also any future site enhancements will naturally apply to the site on all devices.
As a content creator you have to be confident that your content will shine in all circumstances and environments. It is our job to ensure this can happen through tried and tested responsive website design approaches.
Popular search engines also recognise the importance of this approach and commonly promote sites built in this way above ones that are not.
So rather than compartmentalising website content into disparate, device-specific experiences, it is much 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 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, potentially future proofing a site ready for the next technology enhancement to come along.