I came across an article a couple of weeks ago about the BBC finally updating their website to be responsive. For a news and technology junkie like me, it came as a big shock to know that a highly respected news source like the BBC had taken so long to get up to date with current web design standards.
I remember when my old website was being built I fell in love with the design of the front page, I couldn’t wait to show it off to potential business partners and sponsors on my phone. I encountered a major problem: the website was designed to be seen on a PC so navigating it from my phone was a nightmare and not even worth trying. This problem was something that had to be addressed ASAP. My only option at the time was to create a whole separate site for my phone. (I hate you 2009)
If you’re a start-up, funds are limited and they have to be spent on tools for your business. (or Nerf guns) Websites are your most important tool and web design isn’t cheap if you want it done well. So imagine having to design and build a whole separate website for use on a phone? That’s TWO website designs and builds for the same purpose. That’s what you HAD to do; there was no way around it. Enter, Responsive Web Design. (Cliché warning) If I only had this technology back then!
What is Responsive Web Design?
Ethan Marcotte is like the godfather of responsive web design; the guy coined the term ‘responsive design’ in his article A List Apart. This is a great read because Marcotte fully explains the theory, elements and ideas behind responsive design; which is what responsive design essentially is. It’s not a single design practice, but rather, a set of techniques and ideas that form a whole.
In it’s most simplistic definition, Responsive Web Design is a way for websites to respond to a user’s behavior. Think of a responsive website as high-tech Play-Doh; it can mold and fit seamlessly into whatever screen resolution you may have and however you may be viewing it. Whether you’re at home looking on your tablet or on the subway using your smartphone, portrait or landscape view, responsive web design is meant for you to have the same experience with out losing the overall, essential elements.
320 x 480 (iPhone)
480 x 640 (small tablet)
1024 x 768 (iPad – Landscape)
Is Responsive Web Design Necessary?
I’m sure at some point in time someone asked the question, “is the internet necessary?” I’ll take the same approach to answer if responsive design is necessary. Had we never known about it or had it never been created, I’m sure civilization would still thrive but now that we DO know about it, there is no reason for it to NOT be a necessity.
Adaption is the key to business. If we can’t adapt, we can’t succeed. The same applies to web design. Business and web design go hand in hand, they can grow together and can fail together. Tablets and smartphones have become powerful and seemingly necessary tools and it’s imperative for web design to be able to adapt to this notion. It’s not just business that is utilizing these platforms, with so many options out there at various price points, tablets and smartphones are being put to use by schools and average consumers. What this means is that your rolling the dice if you’re website isn’t responsive and the odds are greatly stacked against you.
Numbers Don’t Lie:
As you take in the concept of responsive design, question your current web design and ponder whether there’s enough of an audience to benefit from this, take in these numbers:
-More than 91.4 million smartphones users are from the U.S
-Out of the 5 billion mobile phone users in the world, 1.08 billion are smartphone users
-Worldwide consumer tablet sales are forecasted to reach 118.9 million units in 2012
So is responsive web design necessary for your site? Well, was the internet necessary?