I remember the first time I saw web content on a mobile device. It was my old Motorola Razr and I’d just subscribed to my carrier’s mobile web option. I was enthralled. Here I was standing in the middle of the store and I was reading actual web content on the screen of my cell phone.
Well, it’s obviously been a long time since those days and much has changed in the way information is displayed on the computers we now carry in our pockets. As displays have grown larger, brighter, and capable of higher and higher resolutions, we have been trying to find the best ways to use them to display information.
The initial idea wasn’t, in all honesty, much different than the way my old Razr was showing me content all those years ago. Dubbed the “mobile web”, the idea was to create separate, mobile-only versions of sites that phone-based browsers could access rather than having to pull down the full version of a site. These sites were commonly seen as a subdomain of the full-sized site; you probably saw it as m.domain.com.
Mobile sites certainly had their place and served their purpose. The only alternative was to not have a mobile site and force mobile visitors to pinch and zoom their way through your content, assuming they could use the navigation in the first place. It was less than ideal, to put it mildly, and a better way had to be found.
Enter responsive web design.
1.Responsive design responded to the demands of the market
Developers and site owners did not want to have to maintain multiple sites serving up the same content. At the same time, site visitors did not want to visit sites that weren’t optimized for viewing on their rapidly growing selection of mobile devices. A site might work on their phone but not work on their significant other’s phone. A site that had the information they wanted on the desktop might have been missing that information when served up for mobile.
The market demanded that something step in and unify all of these things. Viewers and developers alike wanted a single site that contained all of the information of the main desktop site and they wanted it viewable on any device, regardless of screen size.
2.Responsive design responds to the size of the display
Responsive web design gave them exactly that. With responsive web design, code behind the site determines the size of the display that it is being viewed on and then makes adjustments in its design, typography, layout, and navigation in order to give the user the best experience based on that display size. Navigation buttons may be larger. Text may wrap differently or be a different typeface. Sliders may be replaced by other design elements that take less time to load.
All of this happens in the background, very quickly, and is 100% transparent to the user.
3.Responsive design responds to the need for simplicity
Perhaps the best aspect of responsive web design, however, is that all of this happens to the main site. When a viewer goes to yourdomain.com on their phone, they are going to the very same yourdomain.com that the person next to them on a laptop is visiting. The same information is served because it is the same site; it is just presented differently.
As you can imagine, this simplifies things greatly for those responsible for managing your web presence. Since you no longer need to worry about creating content for two (or more) different sites, you can focus your attention on making your content as good as it can possibly be. Responsive web design will take care of making sure that it is presented well.
4.Responsive design responds to the future
With responsive web design you no longer have to be concerned with future screen sizes – either larger or smaller. Your site can still be served regardless of the trends the industry might follow. And, adapting to those future needs is as simple as changing a few lines of code. Design trends might change and server or site software might take a different direction. But, with responsive web design, you know that your site will always be visible across the wide spectrum of devices we have available now and any new devices the future may hold.