One of the hottest topics of the last 12 months has been responsive web design but what does it mean for your website and your business?
At a basic level a responsive design is one that will provide an optimal user experience whether viewed on a standard screen or on a smaller mobile device. The idea is that the design and layout of the page will “progressively enhance” depending on the screen size being used to access the site, meaning whether your users are on their mobile phone, tablet or PC they will get a similarly rich user experience. Full browser support on mobile devices is relatively recent but with the explosion of smart phones and tablets led by the iPhone, Android and iPad it has become increasingly important to ensure that your site has the inbuilt flexibility to accommodate these varying audiences.
As a result of this growth in mobile users, a new design philosophy has emerged that says that if you are thinking of designing a responsive site that you should go “Mobile First”. Rather than starting with the traditional desktop monitor resolution your designer should start with the mobile version of the site and work up from there. This ensures that your designer is thinking about how the smallest screen user will browse the site, and the intricacies involved with that, before they consider the more traditional larger screen. The designers choice regarding the relative positioning of elements and their size and colour have to be carefully considered for the smaller screen before the larger screen is thought about. As the screen size reduces, the impact of these design choices becomes more pronounced.
With the launch of our new website we have made the site fully responsive to show how this type of design can enhance the user experience no matter what device they are using. Whether your site needs to be responsive or not right now will depend on the demographics of your users and how they are currently accessing your website. Your favourite web analytics tool will tell you what devices and screen resolutions users are accessing your site with and this data will then inform your decision on what steps you take next.
As with any new technological advance, it is always easier to consider responsive design for your website from the beginning of the project. If it is planned from the outset then it can be easily incorporated into the process and the resulting design can accommodate the necessary requirements. Retrofitting your site to be responsive is not impossible but will certainly take more time.