What is Responsive Design for a Website?

 In Usability, usability design, user friendly design, web analytics, web design, web design usability, web design. web usability, web site usability, web usability design, Website Analysis, website usability
Responsive Design Logo

Responsive Web Design Logo

Just when you think you know everything you need to know about website design a new product comes along and forces you to rethink the parameters of your layout (I’m talking to you iPad).  The proliferation of different sized screens and hardware through which people access the Internet, could have meant that web designers would soon be developing dozens of different layouts depending on how your website is being accessed (smartphone, laptop, desktop, tablet, etc).  However, thanks to the tireless efforts of developers, we now have Responsive Design.

If you are into tech history, Ethan Marcotte first wrote about Responsive Web Design here.  In the simplest terms, responsive design is programming that uses percentages to create a flexible foundation to your website (typically grids are based on units of measurement you may have heard of called pixels or points).  By making media such as images, videos and type fluid instead of set in measurement, a responsive website is able to adapt the layout of each page for the specific device that the viewer is using.

What about Mobile Websites?

Many times, you might find yourself on a mobile device like a smart phone or a tablet, and you visit a site to gain more information about that business.  For a while, having a separate mobile design was a popular way to go to try and make navigating the information. Mobile websites have enjoyed growing popularity, and as the popularity of smart phones grew some businesses built mobile sites to mimic the popular phone app layout.

However, mobile sites often do not have the full range of information on them that their “desktop” sister site supplies viewers with.  The navigation of these sites is also typically different than the navigation on the desktop site.  So, in that case you might have a user who is familiar with your site when they sit at their desk, now hunting around for the same information on their phone because the layout is unfamiliar, or because you had to pick and choose what information made sense to deliver on a mobile website.  Additionally, users who are surfing via a mobile device can almost always opt to view the “desktop” site, but in that case, now you have them squinting at the screen, or enlarging small pieces and hunting and pecking around because what is visually pleasing on a desktop monitor is suddenly very inconvenient on mobile technology.

The Future of Web Design

Web design will continue to evolve as more and more hardware is brought to market (I’m talking to you Google Glass).  You might say that every design is Responsive Web Design because however your customers and potential customers decide to access the Internet will be how you respond to delivering them information.

We mentioned that Ethan Marcotte is considered the “Father” of Responsive web design?  You can visit this page and see his top 20 picks for the best Responsive Websites.

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