Smartphones are everywhere, and they’re rapidly being joined by a plethora of devices which allow people to browse the web. Customers can now browse – and shop – from a tiny phone screen or a 60 inch TV. Dealing with all these different devices, which have very different specifications, has been a real headache for web developers but a new technology and a new ideology may have the answer. Changes built into CSS3 – the programming language which is used to style websites, making pages like this more than just text – are allowing a movement called ‘responsive design’ to blossom.
What is responsive design?
Previously, websites have been like custom-made suits – done well, they’re very good but if something changes size even slightly, they can quickly become ill-fitting and uncomfortable. Even flipping an iPad from portrait to landscape can break some mobile websites, hiding key features like the ‘buy now’ button.
Responsive design is a way of thinking about web design. The goal is to create websites that recognise what type of device and size screen the user is using and automatically shuffle the elements to fit. It’s like changing your tone of voice and vocabulary as you move from a business meeting to discussing children’s TV with a five-year-old – the sort of thing that humans are naturally very good at and computers aren’t.
Benefits of responsive design
As new devices hit the market every year, it’s impossible to predict what the next trend will be – small screens? Big screens? Round screens? Rather than frantically trying to keep up with new product launches, responsive design aims to build a website which will work on any screen of any size – that way, each customer will see a version of your site that looks good, whether they’re on their phone, PC or TV.
Further benefits of responsive design include:
• One site to maintain and update
• One set of data to analyse
• One development and test team
• One flexible design
• Customers get more functionality
• Consistent user experience
• More users stay on your site
• Increased sales due to improved user experience
• Improved SEO
• Site is easier to maintain and to make future-proof
Responsive design site or mobile site?
Searches made on mobile devices are influencing more and more decisions – particularly for restaurants, shops and hotels so you definitely need a mobile presence for your website. Responsive design needs to be baked in – for most sites, it will mean a comprehensive reworking of your entire site and for many businesses that simply isn’t practical right now. If you have an established website, a mobile site can be a simple bolt-on approach which quickly gets you into the mobile search market. But when you redesign your site or build a fresh site for a new product, responsive design is likely to offer much better value.