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Responsive Web Design - Future?

by  David Dwyer on  09/09/2013    2711 Reads

Could your lack of Responsive Design be driving people away?

The changing shape and size of smartphones and tablets over the past few years has been great for consumers. But it’s also revolutionised the way IT professionals think about web design.
 
That’s because there are now hundreds of different screen shapes, sizes and resolutions for the sites we create to be viewed on – and who knows how many more still to come.
 
In the ‘olden days’, before the smartphone revolution, most of us would view a website on a desktop computer. Screens were roughly the same size and monitors were roughly the same shape. A website would look pretty much the same whether you viewed it at home or at work. Viewing it on the way to work on your phone wasn’t yet an option.  One website design did the job just fine, thanks. 
 
Today, consumers increasingly prefer to view websites on the smaller screens of their smartphones and tablets. And they’re using them to shop, too. According to Monetate, around 25% of visits to major e-commerce sites now comes from smartphones and tablets. That’s a 138% increase on last year alone.
 
Clearly, one website design is now not enough for all those types of screens. Business owners need to be aware of how their sites look and perform on every single device their customers might have, rather than risk losing sales. As developers we could build hundreds of different websites for each client – or we could use Responsive Web Design. 
 
In essence, Responsive Web Design is an approach to building a website that takes into account that any given site will be viewed on different sizes of screen – often in the same day by the same customer. A ‘responsive’ website will automatically become wider, or narrower, or reduce the size of its images, or move the text around depending on what browser and what device is being used. It also takes into account the orientation of a device – whether it’s held horizontally or vertically – and adjusts the site accordingly. 
 
A responsive site will also take account of a user’s intentions; if you’re viewing a site through your smartphone, you’re more likely to be on the go and have different needs and interests than someone sat at home. The information displayed will be tailored to those needs: bigger buttons, fewer images, more prominent contact information.
 
If you’re thinking that this all sounds a bit similar to what I’ve said before about the importance of having a mobile-friendly website, you’re right. But Responsive Web Design is much more robust, and maximises the usability of your site for more than just mobile devices.  
 
Incorporating Responsive Web Design into your company’s website site ensures that your message to your customer’ is always clear and ‘actionable’, no matter what device your client is using today, tomorrow, or even next year.  
 
Keep in mind too that younger consumers rely on their mobile devices more than older ones. So if you’re in a business that caters for or is hoping to attract younger consumers, making sure your message is clear to them at all times is especially important. 
 
We recently developed a site for a business that provides speech and language therapy. Given their clientele, they wanted their site to be particularly easy to view, understand and use. The result is www.react2.com. Whether viewed on a desktop or smartphone, the site remains easy to navigate. Text and images rearrange themselves automatically according to the size of the screen they’re being viewed on. The end result is a website that always does its job of driving sales and keeping existing customers happy. 
 
Websites that don’t use Responsive Web Design are easy to spot. Everything stays in the same place, no matter what device someone is using to access it. This inflexibility can make a company’s message to its clients confusing, and make their business look unprofessional. It also gives the impression that they aren’t interested in the custom of smartphone and tablet users.   
 
A growing number of clients are asking us to use Responsive Web Design techniques when we build their sites. We’ve also redesigned existing sites with responsivity in mind. It takes a bit longer to design a site in this way, so it costs more. But in a competitive business environment, can you afford not to make it easier for smartphone and tablet users to choose you over your competitors?  
 
David Dwyer is Managing Director of Inspire Web Development. He has years of experience in a range of web and IT roles plus seven years in sales and marketing in a blue-chip FMCG company. David’s academic and professional qualifications include a BA (Hons) in Business Economics (Personnel) from the University of Paisley, an MSc in Information Technology (Systems) from Heriot-Watt University and PRINCE2 Practitioner-level certification. He is also an active member of the British Computer Society.
Inspire Web Development, Responsive Web Design, The Evolving Web
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