Archive for January, 2013

Redefine your Website with Responsive Design

Thursday, January 31st, 2013
Responsive design is the process of creating a single website that has the ability to dynamically reconfigure its layout, navigation, content, and images based on the size and orientation of the user’s display and the browser on which it is presented.

A responsive website achieves this flexibility by using a single HTML codebase that is presented differently at predetermined breakpoints – boundaries that correspond to the displays of various devices and browsers – through the use of CSS (cascading style sheets) media queries, a fluid grid, and flexible images.

A user visiting a responsive website on a typical desktop browser might see a three-column layout with navigation in the left column, page content in the center, and calls-to-action on the right.
Another user visiting the same site on a smartphone might see a single column layout where the navigation has been re-configured into a list below the header, page content, and scaled-down images below it, and no calls-to-action displayed.

Likewise, if a breakpoint has been established for a tablet device, tablet users would be presented with yet another configuration of the same elements.

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The goal of responsive design is to build web pages that detect the visitor’s screen size and orientation and change the layout accordingly.

Responsive design is a somewhat retro approach to website design that solves a lot of design problems caused by the proliferation of new types of mobile devices. Responsive design pages use x and y coordinates on a grid for layout and mathematical percentages for images instead of fixed-width parameters. Using percentages instead of fixed-width parameters and a grid layout creates a more fluid layout that will resize itself to fit the size of the display.

Media queries, a feature of cascading style sheets (CSS), allow the developer to specify when a certain style takes effect. With CSS2, for example, a media query will serve printer-friendly style sheets if requested. CSS3 has expanded query capabilities that allow style sheets to be targeted to a device’s display and serve a desktop, tablet, or smartphone style sheet depending on the query response.

This capacity means that instead of having to build a special mobile version of a website — which often requires writing new code from scratch — developers can simply build multiple style sheets for the same web page and perhaps even associate different images with each of the style sheets. As a result, HTML code can be repurposed instead of having to be rewritten, which saves considerable development time.

The approach to any website solution should still begin with a solid strategic foundation.

The idea of building a single website that can provide quality user experiences across multiple platforms is very attractive. This is particularly true of sites that deliver a poor or seriously degraded experience in many non-desktop browsers or, worse, offer none at all. More than half of U.S. mobile users are predicted to own smartphones by the end of 2013, and the use of tablets is not far behind. Tablet sales are expected to exceed 100 million this year.

For those of us who create websites and services, all this leads to a singular conclusion: A million screens have bloomed, and we need to build for all of them.

So then the benefits of responsive design are obvious: You build a website once, and it works seamlessly across thousands of different screens.

Responsive web design also gives you as an owner of the website to be able to collect all social sharing links with a single URL. This will allow you to make positive contributions for better and user friendly website.

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Given the rapid adoption of tablets and smartphones — and the fact that users currently seem to prefer reading their news on the mobile web – it is inevitable that 2013 will be the year that responsive design takes off. For publishers, it offers the simplest way to reach readers across multiple devices. For users, it ensures a great experience on every screen.

So are there any negatives? It should be noted a responsive website does not guarantee a one-website-fits-all solution. A user visiting a website with a desktop computer often has different needs and expectations than a user with a mobile phone. A desktop user is more likely to read detailed information about a condition or treatment, whereas a mobile user is more likely to want quick access to a tool. Ultimately, a responsive website may not be able to adequately address the needs of every user with a single strategy, especially if those needs are significantly different.

The approach to any website solution should still begin with a solid strategic foundation that identifies key objectives and how those objectives may differ across platforms.

*Did You Know? If your responsive website is based only on mobile-content, it will affect your Google ranking because Google does not support such websites and it will not index your website.