Marketers, digital designers and developers are all struggling to keep pace with the rapidly changing digital landscape and the evolving expectations and behaviours of consumers. New devices bring new challenges in designing experiences which span many devices and platforms.
In a world where the variety of internet connected devices is rapidly increasing a design technique called ‘responsive design’ offers designers and developers a forward-looking approach that, done well, provides a great user experience for users across devices.
Responsive design and how it works
Responsive design is a way of designing and building flexible websites which respond to the limitations of each platform. So, instead of having to design multiple websites for every device and platform, you create one website which automatically adapts to the device in use.
It works by using the same underlying HTML content on the page, then adjusting the CSS layout when the screen size changes. A responsive website may look different on a phone to how it looks on a tablet, but the content is static and therefore the same. Think about it like a chameleon changing its colours; it may look different depending on the environment, but it’s still the same animal underneath.
The Boston Globe website is a great example of responsive design in practice. Open it on different devices or simply resize your browser window and you can see how the layout and content adjust.
This approach has two main benefits:
The best way to build a responsive website is to start with the mobile layout, a technique often called ‘mobile first’. This encourages you to focus on a few pieces of core content and functionality, rather than having the luxury of a large screen to play with. Deciding what’s most important can be a difficult process, but the end result is a more focused product.
Responsive design will take time to mature, but it is clearly a technique which will become widespread. While a separate mobile site will remain the best option for some websites, the majority can benefit from a responsive design.
I joined Foolproof in 2010, having studied Computer Science at the University of Nottingham. While my degree was a technical one, my primary interest is design - how it a...