Responsive website design

Responsive website design, not mobile design

Tue 12th Nov 2013

Responsive design is the technique of creating layouts that stretch and change according to how it is being viewed, content adapts to screens, from varying sizes of desktop screen to laptops, tablets, smart phones and other hand held devices.

If you are unsure what I mean by responsive design, resize the window you are currently viewing this website in, you will see how the content moves and adapts to fit. This means that as you view the content on a smaller screen you will not need to either scroll from side to side to read content or have to pinch and zoom on a touch screen device, text remains a readable size and links are easily usable.

Responsive design, not smartphone design

When talking about responsive design, it is easy to focus on phones and I know of web developers and designers who only accommodate desktop and mobile sites. This makes some sense because smartphones are most unlike desktop screens which until recently was the only consideration when designing and building a website. But, responsive design is about much more than smartphones.

It is surprising how many visitors some websites receive from users on old desktops and laptops with low resolutions. So, instead of thinking about devices, think about designing for large screens and small screens. This is a problem solved by a responsive design.

Build for the future, don’t just keeping up with the present

Web developers have to cater for a wide range of devices and screen sizes, and this seems set to diversify. One of the advantages of responsive design is that it doesn’t focus just on the devices and screen sizes that exist now. A responsive website adapts to fit a screen of any size, with a layout suited to each, the approach is future-friendly. The prospect of having a website that continues to work well into the future, even as new devices and screen sizes come to market has to be appealing.

You are likely to want your website to last for a few years without needing a major overhaul, which is why responsive websites are incredibly important. Even if a website doesn’t draw a lot of mobile visitors today, it might in the future, a website working poorly on mobile devices might keep mobile visitors away, but a responsive approach would ensure that those mobile visitors get a good experience and stay on your website.

If you are having a new website built, responsive design is something you should consider from the outset.  Trying to retro-fit responsiveness onto an existing non-responsive website can be time consuming and consequently expensive, whereas incorporating responsiveness early on in the design process is much easier, so if you are thinking of building a new website or having an existing site redesigned it makes practical and financial sense to do it all in one go. If you are concerned about budget constraints I would advise having a smaller website built with fewer features and making it responsive with a view to adding more content and features as your business grows rather than not building something responsive from the beginning.

by Rachel Watson