Responsive Summit

Today saw the exciting and ground breaking Responsive Summit take place in London. This get together was to discuss Responsive Web Design.  Although I didn’t attend, I followed events via Twitter #responsivesummit.

Whilst not a web designer or developer, I am an Ecommerce Manager, and so a huge part of my role involves ensuring that visitors to our websites can find what they want quickly and easily.  I am passionate about making sure that the website performance or functionality doesn’t hamper visitors from achieving their goals, whether looking for prices, a phone number or actually buying.

RWD can be described as the website content, size and layout changing to fit the device capabilities as appropriate. This means that a website visitor on a mobile device gets the same content and functionality as a desktop visitor.

With lots of interest from those in the web industry as well as the media and those who are and aren’t tech-savvy, it’s no surprise that the Responsive Summit was needed in order to try and establish some best practice ideas and opinions in order to drive the use of Responsive Web Design forward so that it is not just seen as a quirky thing,  only available for clients with a big budget, or only implemented by web designers at big agencies, or cutting edge freelancers, or by those with time to spend on their personal portfolio sites.

I am extremely excited at the prospect and uptake of the Mobile First philosophy, so that all users get the same experience no matter what device they are using. This way of thinking can also simplify the desktop experience and help visitors achieve their goals whether they want film times, the latest news or to book a holiday.

Determining how best to implement responsive web design for each client, project and audience is still difficult to establish, and there is no one size it’s all solution. What works for a national newspaper which contains lots of content and articles may not work for an ecommerce site, restaurant or social network.

Serving the right size of image is also proving to be difficult. Whilst a small low quality image may be fine to illustrate a article on a news site for mobile users, a much better quality age will be expected for sites selling high value products when viewed on a TV.

Accommodating advertising is also proving to be a challenge. When the size and layout of the content changes, there isn’t the same amount of space for adverts. Think about how intrusive a traditional banner ad would be on a mobile device compared to the same advert on a 27″ monitor or a 40″ TV.

There are many benefits of designing and implementing websites this way, rather than designing separate mobile sites. Instead of targeting the hundreds or thousands of potential devices that could be used to access a website, media queries are used in order to establish the device screen size and by using CSS will adapt the content to fit.  Utilising breakpoints, so that certain widths of devices are targeted, rather than individual devices makes far more sense.

Being able to show the same content, albeit in a different layout, to all visitors no matter what device they are using is essential in my opinion.  The groundbreaking Boston Globe responsive website looks different at different widths.  Try changing the size of your desktop browser window, and then looking on a mobile device, or a TV, and see what you think.

Whilst not universally accepted by website owners or web designers and developers, website visitors are generally likely to be in favour of having an easy to use website on their mobile devices, without having to worry about reduced content or functionality.

Lukew and others regularly publish astounding stars regarding mobile usage. In the US, around 20% of those who use the web, do so almost exclusively using mobile devices.

In addition, people watching TV will often use their mobile devices over wifi rather than a laptop. It can no longer be assumed that those using mobile devices are looking for directions, opening hours or other quick and simple information.

Those using laptops could Well be using a slow 3G connection whilst on the move. These users may want basic information rather than the traditional desktop site and experience.

If you’re interested in Responsive Web Design, or have an alternative, why not leave a comment?

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