Responsive Design (and why you want it)

By James Rogers • Sep 26, 2013

, ,

If you’re like me, or any majority of people with a smartphone, or tablet, there have been times when you’ve been looking something up online, only to come to a website that wasn’t optimized for mobile viewing, at all. This can be a real problem if you want people to stay on your site, or even come back!

A History of { Mobile } Design

Back in the day, websites weren’t really intended to be viewed on devices other than a desktop or laptop computer. Then, smartphones suddenly blew up in the market. Although they’ve technically been around since 1992, it wasn’t until the mid-2000’s that they became more mainstream, and then rose to popularity around 2012. This introduced fully capable web browsers on touch screen phones, and it completely changed the dynamic of how websites would need to be built for viewing.

To address this new problem (because who wants to pinch and zoom fifty times just to see a whole web page on their device?), mobile sites were developed as an alternative to full size browser sites. So if I had a domain that was www.domain.com, it wouldn’t be surprising for me to have www.m.domain.com, or even www.domain.com/m/. These slight variations allowed mobile visitors to be redirected to versions of the website that were condensed and coded specifically for smaller devices. Usually they were compacted versions that loaded quickly with only a few pages, and the most vital information. They aren’t great, but they get the job done. 

However, there are a couple of issues with mobile specific sites that you should be aware of. They aren’t deal breakers, but if not utilized correctly a mobile specific website could end up hurting your business. 

1) It’s a separate subdomain or subfolder of your regular site. This means all the content is unique, and if you want to make updates you have to do it a minimum of two times. The larger your mobile site (the more information you include from your desktop site), the more time you’ll have to spend making updates in two places. It doesn’t sound like a problem starting out, but forget to make updates once or twice and things can become uncoordinated fairly quickly.

2) More and more users want a full website experience on their mobile device. Mobile specific website were great when all you wanted to do was include a welcome page, an information page, and a contact information page. However, modern users will typically be driven away by mobile sites like that now. That’s also doesn’t take into consideration what happens if your visitor visits www.m.domain.com on their desktop.

Device Layouts

So why are you telling me this? I thought this was about { Responsive Design }?

Yes, yes it is. One of the best ways to understand why you want a Responsively Designed website is to understand why it’s a better practice than before. To understand where we’re going, you have to understand where we’re coming from.

In its core, Responsive Design allows you to display a single website, www.domain.com, and have it dynamically change how it looks, based on what kind of device you are using to view it. Your site will look different depending on a desktop than it will a smartphone, which will look different than if you were on a tablet. And the best part? You only have to make updates one time. Just once! There are no subdomains or subfolders to worry about. This allows you to give your mobile visitors the same experience you give to your desktop visitors, without sacrificing functionality or important content.

Responsive design has been around since 2004, and even though it took a couple years to really gain traction, it has been in widespread use since 2008, which means there is no reason for your website to not be utilizing it for customers.

Decreased maintenance, increased visibility, and happy customers. All the things that make the web a happy place 🙂

James Bio

Creative thinking and project development are just a part of what makes James tick. When he's not working on a project for a client, he's usually working on a project for himself. When he's not doing that he can be found snowboarding, hiking, or enjoying a broadway show with his wife. Got a project need? Get in touch.

Archives

Affiliate Disclosure

Some of the links and ads on this website are affiliate links. That means if you sign up or buy a product through one of those I get a small commission. I only put up products that I think are useful, so have fun!

WebInke Design Comment Policy

We welcome respectful comments and discussion. Off topic discussions may be removed without notice.