Many people believe the Internet is going through fundamental changes. While the Internet itself has gone through minor changes, the real change has been how the internet is experienced. From large and clunky desktop computers, to sleek laptops, and now to powerful smart phones and tablets, the web experience is evolving at break-neck speed. While many sites have elected to use a mobile friendly design, there is a shift occurring amongst both large and small businesses towards mobile web design.
What is Responsive Design?
Responsive web design is simply a webpage designed to respond to a specific screen size, whether a computer, smart phone or a tablet. Instead of having two versions of a page for mobile and computer users, the same page is shown with small variations based on the type and size of each screen.
Why Responsive Web Design is Vital
There are several major benefits offered by electing to implement a responsive design over other mobile friendly options.
The first is the issue of branding. A website’s design is an important part of the company brand. The colors, design, and functionality of a website influence how users recognize its brand online and offline. A mobile site may preserve some of this, but a responsive design does so in a much more complete way.
The second is the impact on user experience. Mobile sites may load quickly, but navigation can be difficult, and they also put a limit on some of the ability of today’s powerful smart phones and tablets. Since a responsive design adjusts to screen type and size, it allows the a page to stay nearly identical, and for the power and speed of any device to perform at its peak.
The third important point is that some of the biggest brands have moved to responsive design in favor of dedicated mobile sites. International news sites like the BBC are using responsive design on some sections of their sites. If small brands should look to big brands for cues to success, then web design is an easy trend to identify and follow.
Are there Drawbacks?
The main drawback is that a responsive design may result in slower website load speeds. A slow loading website can result in lower search engine rankings, as well as a poor user experience.
In order to make a website responsive, additional code must be added. This code is then called upon every time a page is loaded, regardless of what a visitor is using to surf the web. A mobile design relies on a script or a website plugin to detect whether a visitor is using a mobile device, and then to redirect them from the standard page to the mobile version. This helps to minimize load times as extra code is not loaded on each and every visit.
In most cases, concerns about slow site speeds are overblown. In situations where a site is loading slowly for other reasons, this will not help matters. However, in almost all cases, any loss of speed will be so small that search engine rankings and user experience will be unaffected.
The Way the Web Should Work
In short, responsive design is the way that the web has evolved to work. Mobile sites may load quickly and be simple to set up, but as mobile devices become more powerful, responsive design will only grow in importance.