Image by Antoine Lefeuvre
The way people are accessing the Internet is changing. This change can reap great rewards for those people who are willing to adapt to it, and can very easily leave those who are slow to adapt in the shadows.
Responsive design is the future of the web. It’s creeping up on us fast and it looks like it’s here to stay. And whether you’re here to stay could have a lot to do with whether you choose to embrace it or not. In this article I’ll explain what responsive design is and why it’s so important.
Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?
That’s the question at the heart of Responsive Design. It tackles the issue of compatibility problems when it comes to viewing a website on different devices and platforms. Your website may look great on a desktop PC, but it also needs to look great on whatever tablet or mobile phone a person might be using to access it.
Or maybe your website looks like a work of art in Internet Explorer, but looks a little rough around the edges in Safari, and, quite frankly, a complete and utter mess in Google Chrome.
This is where Responsive Design comes in. Websites that implement Responsive Design are able to have their site looking amazing; no matter the device or browser that’s accessing it.
The traditional way of building a website was to establish fixed widths and heights for everything. Images, texts, buttons and links would be coded to be a certain number of defined pixels. This was fine when desktop computers ruled the roost, but not so great in a multi-platform, device-varied world. So web designers began to adapt by creating separate mobile versions of their websites, changing widths and sizes so that the text, images, buttons and links would be more suited for the smaller screen.
The website was able to detect that a mobile device was accessing it and change to the mobile version. This worked better, but it was still restrictive in that it still didn’t account for the huge array of different mobile devices, all with different screen sizes. So the responsive solution arose.
Adapting and Customising
Responsive Design is able to adapt a website to the specific device that’s being used. It resizes text, images, links and buttons to fit the size of the screen on that specific device. In the past, website visitors would have to constantly zoom in and out to see information, but no more; thanks to Responsive Design, people can access your content more effectively with much less stress and hassle.
Responsive Design also allows page elements to be customised for different devices, such as more prominent buttons, dropdown lists and collapsible menus, which makes for a less cluttered and more intuitive experience for smaller, touch-screen phones.
A Few Statistics – and the Future
Adopting a Responsive Designed website is extremely beneficial. A recent survey by the Office for National Statistics shows that 71% of people aged 16 to 24 living in the UK access the Internet on a mobile device, and with mobile Internet reception improving and with 4G Internet becoming more popular, this trend is only going to increase. So it’s time to think responsively.
It is likely that the vast majority of people accessing your website will do so through a search engine like Google. If your website loads and it requires a lot of zooming in and out by the person visiting the site, and images are cropped, they can very easily click away to another search result in Google and onto another website.
The number of websites using Responsive Design is set to increase dramatically in 2014. Failure to adapt your website could be very costly. It does not have to be difficult to implement. If you’re using a Content Management System like WordPress, there are a number of responsive themes already available.
What are your feelings about Responsive Design? Share in the comments.
David Eagle is a writer, web blogger and podcaster currently writing for GKBC, who offer free online work experience for those who want to work in creative design.