Responsive Web Design

What Is Responsive Web Design Part 1

Smartphones and tablets continue to “take over the world,” at least when it comes to browsing.

While we’ve known for a while that it was just a matter of time until mobile devices would become the go-to method for accessing the internet, most of us were unaware at just how quickly that would happen.

But it’s safe to say that now, that day has arrived. In March of this year, for the first time, the number of mobile-only internet users exceeded the number of desktop-only users. This shift shows that desktops are no longer the primary means of accessing the internet; mobile devices are catching up, and fast.

For organizations that have websites, that’s big news. Now, more than ever, it’s important to ensure that your website is accessible for visitors on mobile devices. Having a website that’s responsive, and runs properly on mobile devices is important –and increasingly so.

A Brief History of the Web

In order to understand the state of the web today, let’s time travel back to the early 90’s, to the very start of website design.

Just over 20 years ago, in the not-too-distant past was the dawn of a new age: the age of the internet. The internet was a vastly different place then, after all; everything was text-based. Nothing fancy or flashy, text-based websites were very basic and to the point.

In 1995, JavaScript entered the scene, and put an end to the very limited capabilities of HTML code. While today, most designers will use CSS whenever possible over JavaScript, back in the day, it was a popular and a much-welcomed upgrade.

But it was a short-lived victory. A year later Flash would be welcomed into the World Wide Web. While it allowed designers more creative freedom, it was also short-lived. Flash was only effective if the user had the latest plugin, and it wasn’t search engine-friendly.

Skip ahead to 2007, when the first iPhone made an appearance. Apple decided to abandon Flash –and would forever change the way websites are developed. Since then, more and more people have been using their mobile devices for tasks that were once limited to desktops, and the age of mobile internet is now here. Everything from surfing the internet to browsing social media sites, checking emails, and even late night shopping is being done via smartphone and mobile internet usage is increasing at a steady pace.

Internet-ready mobile phones introduced a whole new set of challenges for web designers. Viewing a website on your mobile phone is considerably different than using a computer. Not only was space an issue, but there was also speed to take into account. One solution was to design two websites, one designed for mobile devices, and one for computers, but this presents its own set of challenges.

But soon a solution was developed. Instead of designing two websites, it’s possible to create a design that is compatible with both mobile devices and desktops.

Some call it the future…others call it responsive web design.

What is Responsive Web Design?

For website visitors, responsive web design means one thing: it works on their phone.

Responsive web design is constructing a website to ensure that the structure, images, video, and ads remain the same –regardless of the device it is being viewed on. This design style offers some significant benefits over the alternative two website design approach.

With responsive web design, you don’t have to worry that your viewers will be seeing two different versions of your website –or worse, only parts of your website. Instead, what a visitor sees on their computer –is what you would see on a smartphone or tablet. The site will simply retract to fit on a small screen –compromising nothing.

This of course, makes sharing links much simpler. For example, when posting a link on social media, you won’t have to choose between the mobile-optimized website and the standard one. The link you post will appear the same across multiple platforms.

Why Does Responsive Design Matter?

Sixty-four percent of American adults own a smartphone, and forty-two percent own a tablet computer.

While these numbers may not seem monumental, it is significant when you consider that in 2011, only thirty-five percent owned a smartphone. Fifteen percent of younger adults (18-29) not only own a smartphone, but are dependent upon their smartphone for internet access.

For organizations and companies with websites, having a mobile-optimized site is important. Municipal websites are also experiencing a tremendous increase in mobile users. Some city websites are getting 30 percent of their daily visitors via phone. Ensuring that mobile visitors will be able to view your website and content is becoming increasingly necessary.

Designing websites that are built with both today’s standards, and the future in mind is important, and the best way to ensure that all of your visitors will be able to access and use your website, no matter what device they happen to be using.

At Town Web Design, we are pleased to offer our clients responsive web design, and websites that are designed to the highest standards.

Our goal is to ensure that each of your visitors, whether they are using mobile or desktop, will be able to access all of the features on your site. To learn more about responsive design, contact us today.

Image: Shinichi Higashi

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