Responsive web design adjusts the size of the webpage to the size of the screen. It incorporates flexible images as well as fluid grids, and uses media queries to decipher the resolution of the device. Then, it resizes the webpage output to fit the screen.
Responsive web design is a win-win proposition. It makes the life of a web designer much easier. All she has to do is design a website once, and it would work seamlessly across any number of varying screens. Users therefore get the optimal experience for the screen.
1) Catering to an Increasingly Fragmented Digital Marketplace
In 2012, PC sales suffered a decline from the previous years for the first time since 2001. The obvious culprits are tablets, notebooks, phablets, smart phones and other digital devices. The short to near term future is a hopelessly fragmented digital marketplace, with consumers lapping up content through multiple touch points, all with varying screen sizes and computational capabilities.
Catering to the millions of different screens is a next-to-impossible task. Creating apps is not a solution, for even if apps adjust to different screen sizes, an app for each of the app stores is by itself an herculean task. In any case, consumers may not prefer apps over mobile apps. A case in point – stats revealed by Pew Research indicate that 60% of all tablet users would like to read news through the mobile web browser, rather than on an app.
Responsive design is the only way out.
2) A Better, Consistent User Experience
Responsive web design may actually not be optional for mobile web designers. Mobile web designers rarely have the time or space to fine tune their pages to ensure stellar user experience, or even to match their desktop pages. Loyal users who are familiar with the desktop page may be quite at sea when it comes to the mobile page. For instance, quick links may be entirely missing from the mobile page.
Responsive web design, which scales up and down depending on the screen size, but retains the basic design template across the desktop screen, mobile screen and everything in between, saves the day. However, when screen size gets too small, navigation menus may hide behind a menu icon even in responsive design. But the overall consistency is sustained.
Mobile-specific sites require redirects, and responsive web design ensures consistency and a standard experience across different landing pages.
3) Simplified Web Management
Unlike conventional design that requires a plethora of code base companions, responsive web design works off just a single set of URL, and HTML code. This not only means that any changes have to be made just once, but it simplifies site management. The benefits spill over to SEO as well – all back links pointing to a single domain can work wonders. Google, in fact, loves sites with responsive design.
Not all is hunky-dory with responsive web design though:
- With responsive websites drawing from a single HTML file, everything loads, all the time. This can affect page load times drastically on low-powered devices or low bandwidth connections, which are many. The ability to strip to an HTML only, faster version is lost. It also leads to the loss of ability to customize content for different devices. Even building from mobile-up does not work. Adding more content for larger screens only means more code, and all that code loading in the puny mobile as well. This can impact customer satisfaction, conversion rates, and loyalty in a big way.
- Responsive design may also force an organizational and process change. It may not be possible to work in silos, or for outsourced teams to work in isolation from the in-house team.
- Increased testing time hives off some of the time-gains made during the developmental and editing stages.
Responsive design has come a long way from being a new fad. As designers and consumers alike slowly but surely realize its benefits, along with further developments that do away with the cons, 2013 may just be the year when it goes mainstream, elbowing out traditional web design concepts into obsolescence.
In fact, we predict that responsive design will become the new standard in web designing. It offers optimal user experience and reduces the developer’s work considerably, in a hopelessly fragmented digital space.