With the current increase in mobile and tablet internet browsing, responsive web design is becoming a bigger focus for web designers and is even leaking into the public consciousness. However, despite this advancing awareness of responsive web design many people still aren’t completely sure what it is or how it works. Instead it is often understood as a vague concept that people know relates to browsing the internet on their phone or tablet yet they don’t really have a firm grasp on. That is why we wanted to take this opportunity to educate you on just what responsive web design is.
What is Responsive Web Design?
A good way to understand what responsive web design is, is to briefly discuss what it isn’t. Have you have ever visited a site on a mobile device or tablet and found that due to the screen resolution everything either is really tiny or you were instead zoomed in on one small section of the page? If so then you have visited a site that wasn’t using responsive web design. You likely encountered first-hand how frustrating it was having to try to resize the screen, scroll back and forth to see images, or pan side to side to read text. You may have also found it difficult to click on links on the page while attempting to navigate the site. All in all you likely found this web browsing experience less than satisfactory.
By contrast, responsive web design is an approach to web design that focuses on making the user experience pleasant regardless of their screen size or device type. A site designed with responsive web design will automatically alter the way it is rendered depending on the size of the screen from which it is being accessed. Thus less important items may fall away or enter a drop down section, and the buttons, text, and images on the page will automatically resize for convenient reading and site navigation. You will find that the width of the screen itself is fluid which prevents you from having to scroll from side to side a great deal. Instead text and buttons would automatically resize and/or carry over to the next line. If you access a site with a responsive web design on a range of different platforms such as a PC, tablet, and smartphone, you will see that the page appears different on each device, and is still visually appealing and easy to use.
How Does Responsive Web Design Help?
Responsive web design is helpful to site visitors because it makes the site easier and more pleasant to use. Being able to access the site from a range of different products and still accomplish goals easily also increases user convenience and satisfaction. Thus from the standpoint of users, responsive web design’s benefits are obvious and numerous.
However, responsive web design is also beneficial to the companies and entities that maintain the site. Another benefit for the people who maintain the site is that though sites with responsive web design typically cost more to design and create, once they have been created there is not much additional work and cost in maintaining them. This is in contrast to the other choice for companies which would be to create two sites, one for mobile devices and one regular. This would require consistently updating and maintaining both sites. In addition some tablet devices or other intermediate screen sizes may not be best served by either the regular site or the mobile site. A site featuring responsive web design would be clear preference for this in between status.
Will Responsive Web Design Continue to Be Relevant?
Some companies have been dragging their feet regarding updating and redesigning their sites to feature a responsive web design. This is often due to the extra expense this would incur as well as the additional time and labor involved in such an undertaking. To many businesses it made sense to determine first if mobile browsing was here to stay or if it was just a passing trend.
However, the answer is now clear: mobile and tablet browsing are here to stay. The sale of smartphones and tablet devices is exploding and users love the convenience and portability of these items. Analytics consistently shows steady growth in the number of users who are accessing sites from these devices and some people are even trading in their PCs and laptops altogether in favor of only a smartphone or tablet. These devices are clearly not a trend, but rather a long term, likely permanent part of the landscape. Companies must jump on board the responsive web design bandwagon or risk losing market share to their competitors who have. Fortunately as responsive web design becomes more established in the web design community the availability of designers who can do it is likely increase even while the cost goes down.