The recent proliferation of smartphones and tablets has changed the paradigms of design and user experience for good. Before the ongoing mobile explosion began, web designers mainly had to deal with one major challenge – compatibility with multiple browsers. However, navigating websites on smartphones and tablets is an altogether different ball game. Designers needs to account for several factors including screen size, resolution and specifics such as support for mobile flash while designing websites based on the principle of responsive web design.
So, why then is responsive web design important for your website? Do you really need to follow responsive web design principles for future websites that you develop? Let’s try and find an answer to this tricky question.
What is responsive web design?
Any design which adapts itself to wide variety of screen sizes and provides an optimal user experience oblivious to the device in use, is referred to as a responsive web design. It implies that as a designer, you need to ensure that the navigation, layouts, text, images and other user interface constructs adjust gracefully regardless of the device on which it is viewed.
Mobile is ubiquitous
It’s believed that more than one-third of the Internet traffic now originates from mobile devices – smartphones and tablets. As a designer, you can’t afford to ignore responsive web design believing and believe that you can get away by designing for a non-mobile audience; it just doesn’t work any longer. In fact, mobile web browsing is expected to surpass desktop browsing by 2015 so responsive web design is likely to emerge as a norm rather than an exception in the years to come.
A website is all about the user experience it offers. While content and other factors do play an important role, the user experience is what strikes the visitors when they view any website for the first time. Responsive web design is all about providing an enriching user experience irrespective of whether they use a desktop computer, a smartphone or a tablet.
Time & Money
It’s a common misconception that adopting a responsive web design is a resource (time and money) intensive activity. While there’s no doubt that there’s a startup cost involved, several responsive design success stories suggest that the cost gets evened out by the savings incurred on duplicating design efforts for multiple form factors. Moreover, adopting a responsive web design makes the design more maintainable in the longer term.
The USP of responsive web design is that its device agnostic. Whether it’s the Apple iPhone, the very popular Samsung Galaxy or the new Apple iPad, responsive web design ensures that users get the best experience on all devices. Though the other option is to build native apps on each platform, it’s tightly coupled to devices and the operating system.
Have you used responsive web design for any of your websites? If so, what’s your take on the challenges and opportunities of responsive web design? Please share your opinion by leaving a comment.
Roger Collings is the Managing Director of RDC Communications Ltd and a telecoms consultant specialising in computer telephony integration.