The inevitability of responsive web design

With the increasing popularity of mobile and tablet web browsing, we know that multiplatform usability is extremely important to our clients and their customers. Since websites can now be viewed in an infinite number of ways, users need to be able to easily and conveniently access websites from a variety of devices.

This growing demand has given life to the responsive web design movement. At the onset of every project, we work with our clients to answer some big questions: Will we build a traditional website, several microsites, a mobile-friendly website, an app? How about a website using responsive web design?

But what then, exactly, is responsive web design?

Responsive web design (as well as its cousin, adaptive web design) is a design framework that allows one website to be optimized across multiple platforms. To users, the same responsive website will detect the device of the user and provide the best navigation and readability for that device.

The same site will appear polished, streamlined and organized when viewed on most devices — from all major manufacturers — including:

  • Desktop computers
  • Laptops
  • Tablets
  • Mini tablets
  • Smartphones

Coined by Ethan Marcotte in 2010 in an article for A List Apart, responsive web design relies on three pillars to deliver the best experience for the wide range of screen sizes:

  • Fluid grids
  • Flexible images
  • Media queries

Mix together these tools with a good chunk of development acumen and you end up with a consistent, intelligent website with prioritized content that users can access with minimal scrolling, resizing and panning.

The implementation of responsive web design does add a degree of development complexity and back-end work to any project, up front. However, strategic technology planning can result in optimized viewing experiences that:

  • Meet the needs of on-the-go users juggling multiple devices and browsers
  • Accomplish the long-term business goals of our clients to connect with and grow their customer bases

As offerers of web development expertise, it’s our job at Imaginuity Interactive to approach each project with a strategic eye, working with clients to find the best solution(s) to meet our clients’ business goals — today and for the future.

Several factors can come into play when considering a responsive website:

  • Available budget
  • Desired browser support
  • Content requirements
  • Functionality needs
  • User expectations
  • Lifespan of the site

Sometimes, separate mobile and desktop site experiences are required. Sometimes, a stand-alone mobile app makes the most sense.

But we expect that responsive web design is truly is the way of the future. It’s only a matter of time before most websites are created with responsive web design techniques.

For our fellow tech junkies out there, here’s a great community site with resources and ideas on responsive design. And Mashable has declared 2013 to be “the year of responsive design,” so keep your eyes open for parades and parties.

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