Current situation of web development is interesting. PC sales are declining for the first time in over a decade. Consumers are purchasing a variety of smart phones and tablets, and browsing the web with those devices.
As a result the average online user has changed to the extent that there is none. There are simply too many different devices with different screen resolutions. Developers face the problem of creating optimal website user experience on a plethora of devices.
Enter responsive web design, aka the way to make responsive layouts which offer a flexible and cost-effective solution to the problem of changing web usage.
“Traditional” mobile web site is often located at an address such as m.website.com. The service identifies the user device and acts accordingly. The problem with this is that web developers need to take into account a huge number of devices and maintain separate page designs.
Another way is to create native applications which are used the access the mobile-version of the website. Apps need to be installed separately on mobile devices. The problem with this is obvious: wide range of apps need to be made and maintained for all possible devices. This is laborious, time-consuming and expensive.
In spring 2010, a web developer Ethan Marcotte named a solution for the aforementioned problems as the concept of a responsive web design was born. It meant throwing away fixed website layouts, mobile device detection and native applications. Instead, website layouts were to be designed to adapt to the screen resolution of the device used to access the page. Adaption was done automatically and in real-time, without separate applications.
How does this work? Responsive website constantly gets information about the screen resolution of the browser and device used. The site then automatically scales the design and images to fit the new size. Users with a tablet, a smart phone or a PC will see a different layout of the page, but not because they have been detected using this particular device, but because the sizes of their browser windows are different.
Internet already packed with great responsive sites. The Boston Globe is the biggest so far. In Finland YLE shows the way for other big players. Of course, Anders Innovation’s website is also responsive. In addition, one could mention The Smashing Magazine.
More responsive sites can be found here: http://mediaqueri.es.
This year has been called the year of responsive web design. During 2013 most companies keeping in touch with the times are likely to make their web services responsive – if they haven’t already done that.
Responsive web design as a term will probably be short-lived. In a few years all modern websites are responsive by default. Then there is no longer need for a separate word on adaptive resolution-based web development. In fact, the term mobile device will also likely fall out of the web developer lexicon.
Hint: It is easy to check whether a particular page is responsive. Just change the size of the browser window: does the page layout and elements on the page change in real-time according to the window size? If they do change, the site is likely to be responsive.
Is your website already responsive, or have you considered making it responsive? Please leave a comment and let us know what you think.