A buzz-word that has cropped up in the last couple of years of web development is “Responsive”. This post aims to give an overview into the world of responsive websites (or webapps if you are keen on your buzzwords!) and why they are important for you and/or your business.
As with everything there are pro’s and con’s to responsive websites and I will try to give you an insight into the good, the bad and the ugly.
First and foremost…what is a responsive website?
Essentially a responsive website is a site that adapts to whatever screensize and device you are using. It’s layout and elements on the page will change based on the amount of screen/pixels available at certain sizes. A good example of a responsive website is the one you are currently on – catlowmedia! If you slowly reduce the width of the browser you are viewing this blog post in you will notice that the content starts to wrap down and shift depending on the width of the screen. No content is ever hidden and no horizontal scroll in needed. Very important in mobile viewing because are natural behaviour on a touch screen device is to scroll vertically, any horizontal scrolling unless a feature can easily lead to disorientation for the end user.
A responsive website allows the user to access the same website, the same content and functionality that is available to a desktop computer user but in a much more friendly and easily accessible manner, with a focus on user experience.
So a responsive website is just a website which adjusts to ensure every user can enjoy your site without any issue on any device or platform.
There are as many if not more users accessing your website from mobile devices and tablets than from standard desktop computers so ensuring your site works well across all device sizes is of up-most importance, so ensuring that the mobile user experience is not just an afterthought is essential.
Good quality web developers will pay attention to all aspects of a responsive website, and this does not just include making sure the site adapts to different size viewports. Page loading speeds are a fundamental and sometimes often overlooked aspect of responsive development and there are many things a web developer can do to ensure faster page loading times, including minimising external Http requests, minifying scripts and loading these scripts in certain ways, ensuring images are optimised and have a small as possible file size and ensuring the right hosting for the website is set-up.
With many people accessing your website from 3G and 4G connections getting this aspect of the development is just as important as the adaptive layout, collapsible menus and retina images.
There are a few downsides to responsive web design and these must be considered when developing your new site.
As example of a downside could be this…. Certain affects and user experiences do not always work well on mobile. For example if your site relies heavily on imagery and/or has parallax background effects and animations then these can be a real drain on a mobile and the effects are not always consistent, the delivery of these effects and high-res imagery . If this was the case then it may be a better option to have a separate mobile site which simplifies the content and splits it up a little, this could potentially have an effect of SEO and continuity of content, but is a widely used technique and done well this specialised mobile experience on a separate Sub domain can easily be a great option.
Single page scrolling pages on mobiles can be extremely long if not thought about. Options like lazy loading and pagination of content may be a better option, again your developer should be able to help and guide you with the options available.
To summarise I think that no matter what your website design, features or purpose. The site must be accessible and designed to use cross platform and device. The amount of mobile traffic to your website will only increase going forwards and ensuring your site is developed to adapt to this ever changing digital world is of up most important – your website is your shop window, if your shop window is broke or doesn’t look attractive no matter what street I am on…I will be walking past it, and I probably won’t want to look at it again, the same applies to your virtual window.