News Buzz Word, "Responsive Design"

Is Responsive Design the new buzz word or is it really an important aspect of web design?  In my opinion, it is one of the most important techniques introduced in web design and development in the most recent years.  The "web" is constantly changing due to the behaviors of the people using it.  It makes sense that web design and development has to change to compliment the behavior of the users going to our sites.

Currently half of all cell phones are smart phones and this time next year it is predicted to go to 70%.  That is quite an amazing change.  Not only are people using their phones to make calls, they are using phones to text, email and surf the web.  So where does responsive design come in? 

Responsive design is a calculated presentation of your site on various devices.  These devices can be  different sizes and your responsive design should accommodate how you wish to present your site to your audience on the various devices, tablet (both landscape and portrait views) and mobile phone.  You also need to keep in mind that a site visitor using a tablet may be wanting different information then a user coming in via a mobile phone.

In every Information Architecture, you must think through what your core content is and how you get to the content, your paths.  You must go through a similar analysis process with mobile devices and users in mind.  Tablets have a smaller real estate to work with so the precious space your home page had in the standard workstation/laptop view, is even more precious.  Mobile users are on the move and are likely on slower speed connections.  So what do you think they want to see?  Maybe contact and direction information?  These are the questions you need to ask yourself.

Growing Technologies has made a calculated decision that all public facing web site we develop must have a response design.  About 5 years ago, mobile access was a hot topic due to all the various mobile apps that could be developed.  Today, we realize that not all companies and sites need a mobile app, but they still need mobile access.  These are two very different solutions.  Don't get me wrong, there is a place for a mobile application, but for many organizations out there, a responsive design will meet and exceed all their needs.

Is "Responsive Design" the new sexy thing on the web?  Yes...but it is also very critical, and in my opinion, necessary for sites to be able to effectively reach their users today.

Things to know because implementing a responsive design will cause the following:

  1. It will increase the time to develop your site.  Not only do you have to go through a detailed information architecture for your standard site layout, but you have to take the extra steps and think about the various vehicles of access and what you want to present to those users.  In addition, the overall development of the "template" takes longer because it must have a "smarter" foundation to accommodate the responsive behavior.
  2. An increase in time also an increase in cost.  But this cost is well worth it and your site analytics will show that your site visitors are "appreciating" the responsive design.
  3. Much like SEO, I don't believe a responsive design is a one time shot.  As you find that the behavior of your audience changes, it is highly recommended that you consider modifying the responsive design to enhance your audiences user experience.  Ideally, this change is not huge, but more tweeks to refine the design.  You are likely to see the most changes in behavior as the mobile audience goes from 50% to 70%.  I would bet the remaining 30% really won't make any difference because they are likely the users that would never go to your site on their smart phones.  They are the users that are forced to move to a smart phone because the standard phone won't be available any more.
  4. Lastly, you and your technical partner must think about the various technologies you are implementing.  Everything on your site, must be mobile friendly. So throw away your Flash development and start looking at Javascript/Jquery and leverage HTML5 and CSS.

When finding a partner to create a new site, make sure they understand and have implemented responsive design.  It is interesting to see so many companies advertise their ability to do responsive design but their own site does not have a responsive design.  Check out www.growingtechnologies.com on a tablet and your mobile phone.  Our responsive design hopefully allows you to view our site and retains it's esthetic quality and content paths while also providing you with information that would be important to you based on the device you are using to access our site.