The Advantages of Responsive Web Design
The growing use of mobile devices to access the Internet is changing the way that web design needs to work. The limitations of mobile devices, such as the smaller screen sizes, means that content that looks great on a PC may not display at all well on a smartphone or a tablet. Mobile Internet connections have become much faster, especially since the introduction of 4G, but it is still much slower than hardwired connectivity and web pages for mobile devices need to be smaller to reduce download times for webpages. There are even differences between the most popular brands of mobile devices that make creating a standard mobile friendly webpage almost impossible.
The initial response from web designers was to create a mobile friendly website that ran in tandem alongside the full website. This entailed putting a pared-down version of the content on the full site into a format that was designed to display and operate well on mobile devices. The difference between different displays on the various devices meant that these mobile websites often only worked well on a limited number of devices, so that they offered only a partial solution to a rapidly growing problem. The latest development in web design for mobile websites has been to create websites that adapt their display and functionality to suit the device that is accessing it.
Responsive web design uses a method based on the engineering principal of graceful degradation1, which eliminates nonessential features in order to keep the vital functions of the website operational. In web design, this may mean omitting large image files that increase download times and decrease the usability of the site in favor of an optimal text display to ensure that the most valuable content on the website can be easily accessed. In this way, responsive websites can tailor their displays to suit almost every device without the necessity to keep any duplicate sites running, all while making a maximum number of possible features available to individual users.
With the number of mobile Internet users likely to grow beyond the number of traditional hardwire users in the very near future, it is becoming more important for websites to be available to mobile devices. Almost half of mobile device users have accessed the Internet on their device using a browser, and there is a growing trend for these consumers to use their mobile devices to do product research while they are in a store. This means that businesses are being forced to compete directly for customers even after they are in the store and, though it is still quite possible to make the sale to these web-browsing consumers even if they are looking at your competitor’s products2.
Responsive web design doesn’t completely solve all of the compatibility issues that still exist between different devices that are on the market, but as the mobile Internet continues to grow these devices will certainly begin to become more standardized. Having a mobile friendly website is already a vital part of any good Internet marketing plan and using responsive web design is the future of mobile web design. A design specific for mobile devices may produce a marginally better display for many websites, but responsive design is the more timely and cost effective method of maintaining a mobile website. As responsive design continues to develop, the degradation will become even less noticeable, reducing the difference between mobile and land wire user experience. Infintech Designs can help you to build a responsive website that will look great and work well no matter which device your customers use, so that you can begin to compete for the growing number of mobile browsing consumers.
2. comscore 2012 Mobile Future in Focus Whitepaper, 2012