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Responsive Web Design: Is it For You?

Responsive Web Design Devices

Responsive web design has emerged as one of the biggest trends in the web design industry as of late. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term, “responsive web design” refers to the concept of a web page that is coded to respond and adapt to the screen size of the user, whether it be a smart phone, tablet, laptop, or full desktop computer.

What and When?

Originally coined by Ethan Marcotte in his article “Responsive Web Design,” this method uses a combination of techniques, including CSS3 media queries and fluid grids, to achieve responsiveness.

With the introduction of new technologies every day, we must decide where to draw the line when it comes to developing for all of these new devices. Is it realistic to create separate sites for each device? Should responsive web design take the place of mobile web sites? The answer really depends on your client.

Does Everybody Need It?

For example, those who work in the service industry, such as plumbers, electricians, HVAC technicians, don’t always need their full site served up to mobile users. One can assume if a user is on their phone looking for a plumber, they just need a phone number, or possibly a contact form with basic information.

It’s not necessarily best practice from a performance standpoint to have a full desktop version of a site load for such users. Even Ethan Marcotte finishes his article with this statement:

“That’s not to say there isn’t a business case for separate sites geared toward specific devices; for example, if the user goals for your mobile site are more limited in scope than its desktop equivalent, then serving different content to each might be the best approach.”

On the other hand, for sites that are almost completely content driven (like one of my favorites, css-tricks.com), users visiting on any device are most likely looking for the same content found on the full site. Sites like this are the perfect candidate for a responsive design.

When content is constantly being added, it can become a nightmare to keep both a desktop and mobile site in sync. This is where responsive web design comes into play. Here at Advice, our research into responsive web design is in early stages. Over the next few posts, I hope to share techniques for implementing responsive web into your sites.

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