Why You Need To Understand Responsive Web Design
The web user has changed – responsive web design is the result. As a web designer, you need to understand it, or risk being left behind by those that do.
There’s a new trend in the world of the webmaster, and it’s one you absolutely need to be aware of if you’re to have any hope of success. It’s called responsive web design, and it’s tied to a major shift in the consumption habits of…well, pretty much everyone.
We’re living in what many have begun to refer to as the post-PC era. More people are purchasing Smartphones and tablets than ever before, and they’re getting more use out of them than their laptops and desktops combined. There are a million different screens accessing a million different websites at any given time, and any website that doesn’t design for all of them is bound to be abandoned in favor of one that does.
As a result, web designers are feeling the pressure; they’re being pushed to build sites that ‘respond’ to the device a user is browsing on; stylesheets that use media queries to adapt themselves to fit whatever screen or device happens to be viewing them at any given time. That way, a website is readable no matter how it’s being viewed.
Failure to account for the user’s screen size – failure to make your site readable across all devices – is almost guaranteed to lose readers.
Of course, it’s not just a matter of size and readability. Just as user browsing habits have shifted, so too have user expectations. When we visit a website, we expect it to be easy to use – we expect it to function intuitively. When it doesn’t, we become frustrated – and again, we abandon that site in favor of one that does.
Again, not adapting to your site leads to lost readership, and lost traffic by association.
Because of these two trends, we’re seeing sites incorporate features such as parallax scrolling. We’re seeing web designers implement touch-screen functionality. Perhaps most importantly, we’re seeing single-page websites, which present all of their information in a simple-to-read, easy-to-navigate format.
This, in essence, is responsive web design – it’s making a website that responds and reacts to its environment. It’s making a site that’s dynamic; one which adapts to fit whoever happens to be viewing it. It’s a principle that’s gaining more ground with each passing day, and one which will eventually be a vital component of virtually every website.
As a web designer, if you don’t understand responsive web design – or worse, if you choose to simply ignore it- you’re effectively shooting yourself in the foot. You’re alienating a large portion of your readership and driving anyone who’s not using a traditional screen straight into the arms of the competition. It’s self-sabotage in the worst way.
The web has changed – and how we consume content has changed with it. It’s only natural that the medium through which that content is delivered – the website – should undergo a shift as well. Responsive web design is a natural reaction to the evolution of content consumption. And just as with real-world evolution, any organism that fails to keep up will inevitably be left behind.
Rachel Gillevet is the technical writer for WiredTree, a leader in fully managed dedicated and VPS hosting. Follow Rachel and WiredTree on Twitter, @wiredtree, Like them on Facebook and check out more of their articles on their web hosting blog, www.wiredtree.com/blog.