Responsive Web Design


Michael Bradigan

| March 29, 2016
Internet History

There was a time when the internet was a thing accessed solely by computers, and the not-so-small flip-to-open device in your pocket could do nothing more than (sometimes) make and receive phone calls. This was a golden age for web design, as all screen sizes were essentially the same cube shape. However, time and technology relentlessly marched on, and that tiny brick in your pocket suddenly had a pretty usable screen, bandwidth suddenly got much more cheap and robust, and eventually, people began to use their mobile phones, which had certainly become much smarter, to browse the web.

For a long time web designers ignored mobile phone browsers, as a fringe user-base. But as time went by and more and more browsing began to be done via mobile phone, designers could no longer afford to ignore this growing segment of the market. At first, the solution to “the mobile problem” was to build two different websites – one for “normal” browsing, on a computer – and one designed especially for the small screen of a mobile phone. This was, alas, an inherently inelegant solution, as – for every change required to be made to a particular website, the change would have to be made twice; once for the “regular” site and once for the “mobile” site. This inefficiency made changes tedious and more error-prone.

Technological Change

mobile_statsFast forward a few years, and the trouble has magnified 100-fold. Gone are the days of the two-screen-size paradigm. Now, the VERY SAME web user could easily go from work, where they have dual 21” x 12” monitors at one desk and a single 27” x 12” on another, then get on a train for their evening commute, where they browse using their 5”x3” smartphone, then get home and use their 8”x12” tablet to continue browsing. The screen sizes are legion.

And gone are the days where this user is fringe. The tipping point has passed – in 2014 the number of mobile users surpassed the number of desktop users for the first time (via CNN money). And the trend is growing exponentially. So the question becomes – how is one to display their content in a useful manner across such a myriad of screen sizes and devices?

The Birth of Responsive Design

Enter “Responsive Design”. This design paradigm, created and lovingly honed over the last decade or so by a host of designers and web developers working in concert across the globe, uses mathematical modeling to dynamically adjust the content of a website’s viewed page, based both on the initial size of the user’s display, AND dynamically changing and resizing content if the user changes the display size of their open window. For – the true and utterly elegant purpose of responsive design is not merely to find out a user’s screen size and present content optimized for that screen – but to RESPOND to its environment – dynamically changing the experience as the the user changes the parameters of their browser.

One Design… Any Screen

responsive_website_aravisThe elegance of Responsive Design not only assures that the end user has a pleasant experience – optimizing the content on the screen based on the user’s fluid parameters and displaying the content in a manner most conducive to the user’s interface size and input type (touchscreen vs. mouse, etc.), but it also saves massive effort on the back end – ensuring that developers can develop one robust system to accommodate all browser and device types rather than having to design and implement changes across multiple screen-specific versions. Moreover, due to the maleable and unified design, your marketing can swiftly and efficiently evolve and change within one single and cohesive structure – ensuring rapid responses to changing market conditions.

The benefits of responsive design are not limited to merely the designers and the end users. Even web search companies like Google are now specifically designing web-crawlers that search sites to determine the level of responsiveness in their design, and are using these metrics to determine page rank when displaying results. Simply put – a non-responsive web page is of lesser enjoyment and thus lesser value to the end user – and Google knows it. The utilization of a properly created responsive design is now considered a strong factor in the process of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). As the market leader in all things search, Google has put out its own SEO Guide – the definitive work on Search Engine Optimization for all web developers to follow.

The Bottom Line is Simple –

Responsive Web Design is Good for YOUR Bottom Line

Designing your website responsively is both the most cost effective manner in which to present an attractive and effective message to your customer and prospects, and the most effective manner in which you can optimize the prioritization of your site in similar-search pattern results. It saves dollars and increases eyeballs, leading to a better experience for both site browser and site owner.