Responsive web design – what’s it all about?
With the rise of smart phones and tablets such as the iPad, it makes sense to design your website to look as good on these devices as it does on a PC or Mac.
This post explores the concept of ‘responsive design’ which is the technique used to ensure a good user experience for everyone who visits your site, regardless of the device they’re using. Websites that employ responsive design will take account of the different devices people now use to access the internet – PCs and Macs, smart phones and tablets.
What’s different about responsive design?
Fundamentally, responsive websites will have a layout that adjusts according to the device on which they are being viewed.
The design and development of the site will take into account different screen sizes of smart phones, tablets and PCs/Macs – small, medium and large respectively. So, on a small screen, the information and images may be stacked one on top of the other, while on a large screen they may be displayed in a more linear fashion. The main focus for a designer has to be usability – making it easy for a visitor to see the information they need and to navigate their way around the site.
And when it comes to navigation, responsive sites have to be easy to use, whether the visitor is using a mouse or a touch screen.
In reality, far from being prohibitive, responsiveness takes web design to the next level of creativity as there is lots of scope for different presentation formats. We are no longer dictated to by a 1280 x 1024 sized screen.
At the moment, most websites are viewed via a PC or Mac. However, to ignore the need for responsive design is, in our view, short-sighted. The statistics tell a predictable tale:
- over a quarter of adults and almost half of teenagers own a smart phone*
- over a quarter of people use their mobile phones for internet access*
- last year, sales of smartphones exceeded PCs for the first time**
- near-field communication which allows secure cardless payments with a smart phone is on the rise.
In addition, there’s a rising trend for people to dual-screen – browse the internet on a tablet or smart phone while they’re watching TV for example, looking for more information about something they’ve just viewed. This has contributed to our growing expectations from this technology – we all expect the websites we view on our smart phones and tablets to be as accessible as the websites we view on our PCs or Macs.
One website for all
Because of these trends it no longer makes sense to produce different websites for different formats. E-commerce websites may have the greatest incentive to move to responsive design, but information-only sites are subject to the same high expectation in the minds of visitors.
Little surprise, then, that responsive web design is fast becoming seen as standard practice.
* Source: Ofcom
** Source: Mashable.com