As privileged consumers, we move from our laptops, to our smartphones, to our tablets on a daily basis. All the while, we expect the contents of the web to magically conform to the various sizes and orientations of our screens. From our perspective, it’s not acceptable for a website to be easy to interact with on a laptop and hard to interact with on a mobile device.
For the most part, web designers and developers have responded to this reality by creating distinct mobile experiences for their content via either optimized subdomains (like m.webpage.com) or native apps (like the ones you find in the App Store). Unfortunately, neither of these methods have offered up the appropriate ratio of experience and efficiency, leaving much to be desired for both the consumers and producers of content.
So, what are we to do? How do designers and developers create wonderful, resource-efficient, device-agnostic experiences so that consumers can continue to effortlessly interact with their content? Ethan Marcotte, one of the godfathers of responsive design, says it best:
This is our way forward. Rather than tailoring disconnected designs to each of an ever-increasing number of web devices, we can treat them as facets of the same experience. We can design for an optimal viewing experience, but embed standards-based technologies into our designs to make them not only more flexible, but more adaptive to the media that renders them. In short, we need to practice responsive web design.
Responsive web design is the practice of creating flexible websites that adapt and respond dynamically to a user’s screen size, device orientation, and screen resolution. Below is a simple example of how a responsive site might respond when visited from an iPhone. The fluid re-calibrations of the rectangles are made possible by media queries and other CSS and HTML stuff that is way over my head, but everything is done without any help from the user. The result is a seamless, cross-channel experience for the user that doesn’t eat up a ton of development dollars for the creator.
Here’s the reality: the web is changing. We’re spending less time consuming content via desktops and laptops as televisions, e-readers, and all the other devices I’ve already mentioned continue to saturate and fragment the content-consumption market. Now, developers and interaction designers need to step up their game to meet the new demands.Tweet