If you haven’t heard about responsive web design, it’s time to start paying attention.

What is it?

Responsive web design is a method of developing a website that allows the site to detect what type of browser the visitor is using or what size browser window the visitor is using, and then:

  • Morph the overall design of the page into a different size or layout to fit
  • Display or hide relevant or irrelevant elements on the pages

Using this approach, it is no longer necessary to build a completely different mobile version of a website to accommodate users with small screens on phones and tablets.

Want to see an example?

Here is a website we recently developed that uses the responsive techniques we are discussing.

When you visit that link, re-size the browser window to see how the layout adjusts. When you re-size to a very narrow layout, similar to what you’d see on a phone, you can see how the design adjusts to show everything in a vertical stack.

It used to be more feasible to build a separate website for each major type of Web browser out there. But with the many types of Web browsers on the many types of devices out there now, it’s starting to make more sense to build a single website that can adapt to the various devices.

A website layout that was developed to look good on a large browser window on a desktop computer can also be optimized for a mobile browser. Responsive layouts adapt to the platform. There is no need for a separate mobile website when a responsive layout is used.

It is still a perfectly fine practice to build a separate mobile site if the need is identified. However, it is nice to also have the option to build one site that will be responsive to the wide range of browsers and devices that are marching into the marketplace.

Advantages of Responsive Web Design

Why should you consider using a responsive layout for your next website? The obvious advantage is that you will have a single website that works great on the many different types of browsers.

The website will work well for users of desktop computers, laptops, mobile phones, tablets and other types of Internet enabled devices. You will not need to worry about building a different version of your site for each new platform that comes along.

It used to be feasible to build a single desktop version and single mobile version of a website, but those days are disappearing quickly. There are now too many variances in desktop and mobile devices. Screen sizes and browsers on desktop computers can vary widely. Screen sizes and browsers on mobile devices vary widely as well.

With a responsive web layout, you only have to make one site, and that site will work well on all these devices. And if new devices or browsers come along you only have to make modifications to your one site to cater to that platform, rather than explore the possibility of building another website.

Disadvantages of Responsive Web Design

The one disadvantage that stands out to me is that it can take longer to develop a responsive website. This is because of the simple fact that there is going to be more testing required to get the layout working across the multiple devices and platforms out there.

More time required for development can equal higher development costs. However, when compared with the costs of building separate sites for separate platforms, the differences in time can be negligible. Building a single responsive website can take less time than building one site for desktop/laptops, one site for tablets and one site for mobile phones. And managing that single responsive site will be less expensive and time consuming than managing two or three different websites.

Why You Should Consider It

Yes, it’s perfectly feasible that a website designed using non-responsive techniques may work fine on a mobile phone or a tablet device. I see sites that weren’t designed for the mobile web or for tablets work okay on those platforms every day. But it may not provide the best experience for that platform.

Many browsers on the newest mobile devices and tablets are quite advanced, and, in a lot of ways, just as good as the desktop browsers. For that reason they can usually take a website that was meant for desktop browser viewing and make it work quite well on the mobile device.

The main issue here is that even though the way mobile devices and tablets display websites may be “good enough,” it still is not providing an experience that is optimized for the platform. And for that reason, a website that works “good enough” on some browsers may actually be frustrating to many of the users.

This is where responsive web design comes in handy. It will optimize the experience for the platform that your visitors are using, rather than work well enough on most platforms.

Whether or not you want your website to take advantage of responsive features may simply be a question of how much you care about the user experience of each of your visitors.

Talk To Us

If you are looking to take a step forward with your website or web presence and would like to take advantage of responsive web design, we are available to talk! Feel free to contact us if you would like us to evaluate your current website and design approach. We can clear the fog and help you understand how to better take advantage of these new technologies for this new era of web design – where everybody seems to be viewing your site from a different device or browser.