What is responsive web design?
You may or may not have heard a whispering about responsive web design, in the web sector it has been more of a bellowing echo. If you haven't the chances are you have seen it in action whilst browsing the web, in fact this very blog post you are reading lives within the magical world of a responsive website. To see it in action, open this blog post on a desktop browser and then make the browser window thinner, then wider, and then do the hokey cokey. You should see the layout/content gracefully (he hopes) adjusts itself to fit the new width of the browser, even if you make the page as thin as the resolution of a mobile phone.
Put simply responsive web design is the way of describing the process of designing and developing a website so that the layout alters depending on the device/viewport it is being browsed, there are different variations of how this is achieved but for the sake of keeping things simple I think this explanation is adequate. The 'device' could be a mobile phone, tablet, laptop, desktop or even a smart TV.
Do I need a responsive website?
If you have your own website, or the company you work for does, you have probably been in a situation where the website doesn't look exactly as it should or function as you would expect due to the device you are viewing it on. A responsive web design would tackle and provide a solution to this problem. But before embarking on the journey of finding someone to provide you with this new fangled super cool responsive website first you need to identify the following:
1. How do current users browse your website?
Depending on the source, it's estimated that up to 50% of web browsing is now being done on mobile and tablet devices. I believe this figure is going to continue to grow and the introduction of new devices suggest that responsive over mobile only sites will give you the flexibility to move with these changing times. However your figures may vary to these estimates so this may not be as urgent but it is not a bad idea to begin thinking about it and formulating some plans for the future of your web presence.
2. How would a responsive web design fit into your online strategy?
Can your key website goals be met with a responsive website design? Are your website goals going to be easier to achieve in a responsive design? in my opinion not every site should be responsive, in fact some content just wouldn't translate very well to a responsive design and some functionality would be made more difficult by responsive web design. So you need to identify if a responsive design is going to cause as many problems as it solves. It could be that a mobile site or an app is more relevant for your business or alternatively it could be that the benefits of a responsive website don't warrant the extra cost (there is more work involved for an agency and as such it will result in a bigger outlay for your website).
3. Are you open to a different design process?
Due to a responsive design taking many forms upwards from 320px (mobile) the design process is somewhat different to what you might be used to. The process of a mock-up based on a fixed width is redundant and the feasibility of mocking-up designs for multiple screen widths wouldn't be cost effective. The way in which an agency will approach this will differ but an approach which seems logical to us at Symphony is a process of defining look and feel with a style tile (you can read more about this at http://styletil.es/) then defining some specific layout using barebones wireframes and building a web version based on these approved design aspects, test site and revise, test site and revise (this is not limited to two cycles but you get the idea, it makes much more sense to be making design tweaks in the environment where the site is going to be viewed and used).
What should I do
If you have any queries regarding responsive web design and whether this is something you should be looking to implement do not hesitate to get in touch with us and we would be happy to have a chat about it.
Are you a business that has recently been through this process, or a web designer who has a differing opinion or agrees to whats in this post? drop us a comment below.
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