The buzzword “responsive” has been floating around the web design world for the past year or so, especially in mobile contexts. It refers to a website that has a very fluid template, which “responds” to the size of the user’s browser by rearranging and resizing the elements to logically fit on the page within a device. BostonGlobe.com and Alaska.org are good examples. To see their responsive templates in action: grab the lower right corner of the browser, and try resizing it.
With every new web-enabled gadget that comes on the market (think TVs, car dashboards and even touch screens on fridges and microwaves) the number of screen sizes grows with it (just for kicks, I checked adcouncil.org traffic stats, and there were over 600 different non-desktop devices listed for the past 30 days alone!). Simply having a desktop and a mobile version of your site might not be enough anymore. So, how do you know if responsive design is right for your organization? If you answer “yes” to most of the questions below, you should consider responsive design for the next iteration of your website:
1. You have enough money in your budget. Responsive design will cost more and take longer to develop than a desktop version, however it will still be cheaper than creating desktop, mobile and tablet versions.
2. You don’t have the resources (human/monetary) to manage and maintain multiple versions of your website.
3. Your users are accessing your website during off-business hours. Evenings and weekends are when use of mobile devices, including tablets, increases and use of desktops drops. Don’t assume what your users are doing—really look at your traffic data. You may be surprised.
4. Your users expect to access exactly the same information and have a similar user experience, regardless of the platform they are on. Think about how airline mobile websites differ from desktop sites. That’s because users on the go need a different experience than desktop users. If that’s the case for your users, perhaps responsive design isn’t the right choice for your website.
5. Your SEO strategy is very important to your overall web traffic strategy. According to Google (see Google’s recommendation link below) when it comes to SEO, it’s better to have one site accessible on all devices than multiple versions of the site for each platform.
Some useful resources/articles:
- Google’s recommendation on building mobile-optimized websites
- If your website is on WordPress, consider using one of their responsive themes for your next version of the site
- Extensive list of great responsive websites (according to AWWWARDS)
- Informative article on 10 things to know about responsive from Adobe blog