06 Nov Why you should get a responsive website
If you’ve been considering a redesign of your company website, you’ve no doubt stumbled across the phrase ‘responsive design’. But what actually is responsive web design, and should you make your new website fully responsive? Simply put, yes! Here’s everything you need to know about responsive design, with expert advice from our lovely resident designers, Darren and Carolyn.
What is responsive web design?
In simple terms, responsive design means that your website adapts to fit the screen size of whatever device a user is viewing it on, be it a desktop computer, tablet or smartphone.
Now for the slightly techie bit: this is possible because the website uses media queries to detect screen sizes and then allocates a CSS style sheet for that screen. The website will use a flexible percentage grid-based layout to make this possible.
“Cascading Style Sheets, CSS for short, is a style sheet language used to describe the look, style and formatting of a webpage, written in mark-up,” explains RONIN designer, Carolyn. “With responsive design, CSS allows the content and presentation of a webpage to be separated; this means the content can be displayed differently depending on the screen size of a device, providing a seamless user experience.“
The three aforementioned screen sizes (tablet, desktop and phone) are most commonly used, but you can design as many style sheets as you would like; if a new device comes out with different measurements, you can design a new style sheet for it. For example, the new iPhone 6 display is ever so slightly larger than the previous model, so you can design a style sheet to fit it exactly.
Where did responsive design come from?
The concept of designing a website to fit the display of a device has been floating around since the early-mid 2000s, as seen in this ‘The Man In Blue’ blog from 2004, which describes the idea. But the term ‘responsive design’ itself didn’t appear until 2010, when web designer Ethan Marcotte reportedly coined the term in a blog post on ‘A List Apart’.
Is responsive design different from mobile sites?
Responsive design should not be confused with mobile sites, which are separate websites specifically designed to be read on a mobile device. Mobile sites are not fully compatible with desktop computers, and vice versa; you can still see a desktop site on your mobile, but it won’t be optimised for viewing. Formatting errors are common: icons and links can be too small, meaning users must zoom in, or text and images are cropped, causing users to zoom out or scroll frantically to read your content.
Often, those websites will prompt users to access the mobile site instead, which makes extra work for your developers, who have to create two separate sites, and for your end users, who may well give up rather than click through. Plus, there are time and financial considerations in developing and optimising both a desktop and mobile site.
Why is responsive website design popular?
According to research by Smart Insights, last year 57% of UK consumers used a desktop, a smartphone AND a tablet to access retail or branded websites, as opposed to using just one device. Multiscreening, where consumers use various devices to access websites, is a huge trend, and is likely to continue to grow. Furthermore, Cisco Systems estimated that almost one third of all UK web traffic originates from smartphones and tablets.
So it’s no wonder responsive design became THE design trend last year, prompting news site Mashable to declare 2013 as the year of responsive design . And its popularity shows no signs of waning.
“Most likely, having a fully responsive website will become the norm now, as more and more people use tablets and smartphones to get online. So if you want to keep up with your competitors, it’s a very good idea to get responsive,” advises RONIN designer, Darren. “With consumers accessing the internet at work, at home in bed or in front of the TV, while travelling and in shops and restaurants, the way we consume content and shop online is changing.”
Far from simply following the hive mind, responsive design will demonstrate that your business is ready for the new world of internet consumption.
Why should you get a responsive website?
There are two main reasons why you should get a responsive website: firstly, it ensures easy viewing for your end user, who is treated to a seamless experience whenever and wherever they log on to your website, with no scrolling, zooming or difficulty navigating, and secondly, your painstakingly designed website won’t suffer from odd formatting and other ugly errors.
The aesthetic of your website doesn’t just convey your brand identity – a study conducted by Compuware found that 57% of people would not recommend a business to a friend if their mobile website is poorly designed. So not getting responsive could be losing you potential customers even before they land on your homepage.
Are there any negatives to responsive design?
“Responsive design does mean there’s more work initially for your designer, because they need to design three style sheets, instead of just one!” says Carolyn.
“But there’ll be less work further down the line trying to adapt your website to keep up with the big changes in the way people access media. And if you leave your responsive website in the hands of a capable designer, the extra work won’t be a problem.”
Plan, plan, plan is the answer – planning your responsive website is the most important part of the design process. Strategy for a desktop website may be different to a mobile website, so careful planning and design will be the way to marry your digital objectives and create a website that works for any platform.
Another consideration is that older mobiles and browsers may not be compatible with CSS3, the most recent cascading style sheet incarnation; there are several well-known bugs specific to Internet Explorer, for example. When it comes to the incredibly fast-moving technology industry, out-dated devices are an inevitability; no sooner have you bought the latest model, the next is announced. However, the amount of devices that aren’t compatible are diminishing – after all, how many people do you know who don’t have a smartphone?
Ultimately, the pros outweigh the cons. With more and more people buying and using smartphones each year – according to Super Monitoring, as of 2013, 56% of people across the world have one – it’s vital to ensure your website is mobile and tablet ready. And whilst you could choose a mobile site or app, a responsive website requires the least amount of effort for your user, giving them an easier and more enjoyable visit to your website.
“I actually prefer designing responsive websites now; my favourite responsive website that we’ve designed at RONIN is the Hill Coaching site, or the Bollin Green website which is due to launch very soon,” says Darren. “A responsive website shows your brand identity off to the best effect, no matter what device you’re using to access it.”
A brand new adaptive website is calling – will you respond?