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Responsive Design Overcomes Device Challenges

  |  February 27, 2013   |  Comments

Is responsive web design the definitive answer for delivering a seamless user experience across devices?

Responsive design has revolutionized the way that websites perform. Because of the technique, websites are now capable of instantly adapting to device differences. The design approach resolves compatibility issues with smartphones, tablets, laptops, desktops, and web-enabled TVs. It produces websites that are functionally and visually optimized for all types of connected devices.

The responsive web design approach is ideal for delivering the best visual experience across the broad spectrum of devices available today. Responsive websites can detect the screen size of any device, adjusting the layout for best performance at various resolutions. Users no longer need to keep zooming or panning to browse your page on their smartphone or tablet. The placement of content blocks can even be shifted to better fit different screen resolutions. Also, the fluid layouts of responsive sites adapt when a smartphone or tablet is changed from portrait to landscape mode.

Responsively designed websites are built for usability. They are designed to provide the most user-friendly navigation at different screen sizes. Furthermore, the feature detection technology that is involved enables users to fully utilize device-specific features. Responsive sites automatically respond to the unique functionality of the device that they are being accessed through. This means that smartphone users can swipe, drag, and tap while browsing your site, conveniently using the gestures they have become accustomed to.

Responsive websites also take into account loading time. You can create a rich Internet experience using responsive web design, without making your site too vulnerable to loading problems. The load time required for objects is simply adjusted according to the capacity of the device that is being used. So if your website is being viewed on a smartphone, objects are reduced in size for faster loading.

Using media queries, fluid layouts, and fluid media to make websites adaptable, the responsive technique streamlines website design. It's a low-maintenance solution that eliminates the need for building and updating a separate mobile website. This means that you can make updates through a single CMS. With only one website to maintain, your mobile and desktop content is always consistent and current. Also, feature and functionality upgrades are much quicker, since they don't need to be implemented for multiple versions of your website. This can add up to a significant cost savings, allowing you to allocate more of your resources for optimizing your web performance in other ways.

Another major advantage is a consistent URL address. With the same URL structure for every device, there's no longer a need for redirecting to a different mobile address. Your site can be accessed directly on any device from one URL. This is ideal, as a single URL makes your website more easily viewed with link sharing. When links are shared through social media via smartphones, desktop users won't experience the frustration of unexpectedly landing on a mobile version of your site.

There aren't too many drawbacks to designing websites responsively. One of the few disadvantages is that support is not included for IE8 and earlier versions. Yet the latest version does support it, and future updates undoubtedly will as well. The other downside is that it takes longer to create responsive websites.

Overall, the valuable benefits that responsive web design offers appear to outweigh any shortcomings of the approach. Many of the major players online, such as The Boston Globe, have already adopted the technique to perfect their websites. With responsive design solving so many critical web challenges, will this approach continue to rise in popularity and stand the test of time? Or will it turn out to be just another phase in the continuously evolving world of technology? Is responsive web design the definitive answer for delivering a seamless user experience across devices?

Responsive Web Design image on home page via Shutterstock.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Hernán Gonzalez

Instead of playing soccer like every other Argentinean teenager, Hernan spent his free time creating simple video games for the Commodore 64 and assembling joysticks with nuts, bolts, and washers. At 18, he began his career in TV as a video editor for a famous teen program in Buenos Aires. He discovered the interactive world in 1998 when he created and produced one of the first interactive TV shows. Armed with the ability to integrate TV with Internet, he founded a startup that produced and distributed content for the web. Years later, he moved to Los Angeles and cofounded Dutch Monaco.

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