Responsive Web Design Considerations

Responsive Web design is a new set of Web processes and design sensibilities developed by Ethan Marcotte in May, 2010.  Marcotte put forth the concept that companies shouldn’t design, build and maintain multiple versions of their websites, such as one for desktop, another for smartphones and possibly a third for tablets.

Particularly at the beginning of the 2007 mobile boom, when some believed apps would deliver virtually all mobile activities, businesses rushed to create apps. But we discovered that people use their mobile browsers too—and emphasis shifted toward creating dedicated mobile websites.

Responsive web design eradicates this need by taking one set of very detailed development code and rendering websites “on the fly” to be targeted for each different device platform. It is accomplished by a combination of pre-existing web languages including HTML, HTML5, CSS and JavaScript to create websites with fluid layouts that change dynamically. 

Therefore, the key benefit to having a responsive website is that it is only necessary to create and maintain one site, not two or three.

How Should You Plan for the Responsive Web?

Before even committing to a responsive website, it is important to consider the challenges that are intertwined with going responsive:

Desktop Browsers—on both Mac and PC including IE7–IE10, Chrome, Firefox and Safari.

Tablets—including iPad 2, 3, 4, and Mini; Android tablets such as the Google Nexus 7, Samsung Galaxy 7, Amazon Kindle Fire, and Microsoft Surface RT.

Smartphones—such as iPhone 4 and later, Android 3.0 phones and later, Windows Phone 7.5 and later, and BlackBerry Curve and later. It is important to note that there are now enough smartphones with Web browsers to fill a small universe and it’s impossible to test them all.

Are You a Candidate for Responsive Web?

Responsive Web Design is still in its infancy. However, high profile sites like Mashable have declared 2013 the “Year for Responsive Design.” Should you take the plunge? There is little doubt that the explosion of the mobile web is real and rapidly eclipsing desktop users. Responsive design fits well into emerging technologies, like HTML5, that make it possible.

Perhaps a starting point is to examine your immediate needs. If you’re undertaking a whole new brand, collateral, logo, naming and the like, it’s a good time to consider going responsive.

If, however, you recently created a new desktop site and are happy with it (and your brand) a dedicated mobile site will be far less expensive, easier to wireframe, design and code than going responsive.

In many ways, the responsive discussion reminds us of those early 1995-96 days of the web when we met many clients who questioned whether they really needed a website. A review of 644 million sites in 2012 might seem to favor considering Responsive Design.

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