Changing Times: How mobile and tablet use force the need for Responsive Web Design

Posted by Mike Gingerich on April 15th, 2013 at 8:25 am

The Internet continues to evolve and change at great speed.

Sometimes it's hard to even remember  the "olden days" of the world wide web without services like YouTube and Facebook.  Reality is, however, that each of these web networks is less than 10 years old.  Social sites like Pinterest and Instagram are even younger, having been around less than 4 years.  Websites, as well, have changed.  What started out first as an adaptation of print brochures to "online brochures"  has now grown into much more advanced website tools that are commonplace including e-commerce sites, blogs, membership portals, and more.  Even services such as Online Banking have become quite common and mainstream.

Yet we are on the cusp of another major shift in web use.

No longer is the web primarily a place accessed by users on desktop or laptop computers. Now, the majority of web use is via smartphones and mobile devices such as iPads and tablets.  This significant shift to smaller, portable and always on-demand web access is forcing a shift in website design.  No longer is it sufficient to have a website built to be viewed properly only on a desktop or notebook computers.  Today the need is for sites that are built in such a way that they can be viewed according to the device a visitor is accessing the site with.

The Need for Adaptive Websites

This means that a visitor coming to the website via their smartphone needs a more streamlined view of the site as opposed to trying to view the full website on the tiny screen.  As well,  most websites designed for desktop users are not developed to adapt to touch screens and taps – only for mouse interaction.  This leaves the growing number of mobile and tablet users often frustrated and having a less than desirable experience when visiting standard websites.  This is important since a business only has one chance to make a first impression!  If your website experience is frustrating for that new visitor coming to learn more about possibly purchasing your products and services, you could have a great product but still lose the sale!

The Responsive Web Design Solution

A new type of web design solves this dilemma. The style of design is called Responsive web design, simply put because it responds to the type of device a visitor is using and delivers a view accordingly.  It is not two or more different website such as a standard site and mobile site.  Responsive websites change their graphic design, web layout, presentation of content and overall appearance depending on the screen size on which it is displayed. Responsive websites can be configured to automatically adjust text size for mobile devices and also for tablets, to simplify navigation, or to change the layout and design so that zooming in and scrolling aren’t necessary.  More advanced customization of responsive design can include hiding completely or tailoring text to present different information, changing photos, graphics and colors to better fit a smaller screen and to eliminate click-only features that are necessary for desktop users.

Companies today need to be thinking about how they can deliver a helpful web experience to all website visitors, whether the visitor is using a desktop, tablet, or mobile phone.  With the massive growth of both tablets and smartphone use, it's important to consider new digital technologies like Responsive web design to ensure that all users have a friction-less experience when coming to a company's website.

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