You may have seen or heard the term Responsive Website or Responsive Web Design (originally coined by Ethan Marcotte) floating around the internet lately. But what exactly is Responsive Web Design, and why do you need it? We’ll start by explaining some of the basic concepts behind Responsive Web Design, then delve into the 6 reasons why you need to consider it for your own website.
Responsive Web Design (or RWD for short) came about in 2010 out of a need to address the number of mobile browsers accessing websites at a steadily increasing rate.
You’ve probably seen your fair share of mobile sites, usually a separate website you get redirected to when trying to visit a familiar website on your smartphone. They are typically subdomains, such as mobile.website.com or they have their own extension: website.mobi.
The main issue with mobile sites is that they were optimized strictly for smartphones – namely the iPhone. As you probably guessed, mobile browsers are no longer just for smartphones – tablets, MP3 players and other devices have their own browsers and ways to access the internet. Pulling up a mobile site optimized for smartphones on your tablet looks awkward (especially in landscape mode), likewise pulling up a website optimized for desktops on your smartphone is equally awkward to view, and pinching and zooming isn’t user friendly and frankly, annoying.
These issues are exactly what RWD is intended to address. RWD responds to the width of your device and formats the layout and content to provide the best viewing and user friendly experience possible.
Why You Need It
Future Proofing & Accessibility
The main purpose of RWD is future proofing your website and making it accessible and readable across all devices.
Mobile browsing is expected to outpace desktop-based access within three to five years. Two of the three dominant video game consoles have web browsers (and one of them is quite excellent). We’re designing for mice and keyboards, for T9 keypads, for handheld game controllers, for touch interfaces. In short, we’re faced with a greater number of devices, input modes, and browsers than ever before. – Ethan Marcotte, May 25, 2010
Say, for instance, you just finished a brand new responsive website and within a year, a new device comes into the market which becomes insanely popular overnight, and you have a high number of visitors to your website from that device. Luckily, your new responsive website has been built for situations just like this and it displays perfectly fine – no need to rebuild or add a separate website just to handle this new device.
If for some reason you do need to have an optimized layout for the new device, all you’d have to do is contact your web developer and they can write a new media query to add to the stylesheet, and tada! your site now has an optimized layout for that device.
The best thing about RWD is that it’s scalable, so that no matter what comes out on the market, you can always add a new media query to optimize your site for it. That way, visitors to your website from any device can have an enjoyable and frustration-free experience.
Content Delivery & Easier Maintenance
Another benefit to having a responsive website is the same content is being delivered to visitors across all devices. Mobile sites typically have different content than the main website – focusing on only a couple of topics and requiring you to “view the full site” if you want access to the rest of the content.
Not only is this inconvenient for visitors, but it’s also inconvenient for you (the site owner/editor) since you have to edit two separate websites to keep content up-to-date. With RWD, you edit one website and your visitors access one website with the same content formatted for the optimal experience on their device.
A Single URL
As mentioned above, RWD allows you to have a single URL – which means no redirects (faster loading times if the site is optimized for mobile) and only one URL to remember. Any way you can make it easier for visitors to access your site and get to content quickly, the better – and you’ll see a higher visitor return rate because of it.
Finally, by having a responsive website, you open the doors to a larger number of potential visitors – increased traffic could mean more sales, followers, and marketing opportunities.
To recap, here are the 6 main reasons why you need a responsive website:
- RWD is scalable so your website will be future-proof
- Your website will be accessible, readable and user friendly across all devices
- Visitors will have access to the same content across all devices
- A single website you have to maintain/update
- A single website URL to remember with no redirects
- Your website will be available to a larger number of potential visitors
If you need a responsive website, the talented designers and web developers at Trent now specialize in RWD, and would be more than happy to talk to you. You can also read about our latest RWD venture with the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy’s new website.
If you have any questions, concerns or comments about RWD and/or what we can do for you, please feel free to leave a comment below.