Why Responsive Web Design Is So Important

First things first:

  1. I’m not a web designer or developer
  2. I’m not an HTML or CSS  “expert” by any means
  3. I don’t pretend to be
  4. I work with websites for a living
  5. I’m keen on technology

Right then, here goes.

Ever since I got a netbook several years ago, I’ve been disappointed by the website browsing experience on it, for the majority of websites.  As it runs Windows XP, and the traditional desktop browsers, I figured that I shouldn’t  have to scroll horizontally to view websites, and that important content shouldn’t be hidden due to the reduced screen height.

Since I got my first iPhone in 2009, well after EVERYONE else got one, I immediately understood what a game changer it was in terms of using websites on a phone.  Prebiously, i had endured a Blackberry, which was a huge step up from my previous phone, it was pitiful compared to the iPhone.

Due to the browsing experience on the iPhone, I have come to depend on it for the vast majority of my web browsing needs over the last couple of years.  Even though I have got an iPad, I still use my phone more, especially at home.

As companies and websites have improved in order to meet the needs of modern smartphone users, I personally welcome Responsive Web Design, which can be described as changing the layout of a website in order to best serve the device.  This is done by using media queries which obtain the width of the device and adjust the layout accordingly.  This means that the same website will look different on a feature phone, smartphone, table, netbook, desktop pc and even a TV, whilst still displaying the same functionality.

There are many examples of responsive sites in the wild, and the best place to start is probably with Ethan Marcotte’s article for A List Apart at http://www.alistapart.com/articles/responsive-web-design/ should be your starting point.

LukeW’s Mobile First suggests that you design for mobile screens first, and progressively enhance, so that the biggest and most capable devices get a fuller experience, but those using a basic mobile device don’t lose out.

In my opinion, removing content or functionality for mobile visitors is wrong.  The often used analogy is that you wouldn’t expect the paperback version of a book to have several chapters missing.

As we can no longer assume that mobile visitors are waiting at bus stops, or using 3G connections, we can no longer dictate what they can and can’t see on our websites.  We can’t afford to turn visitors away.

As I’m an ecommerce manager, I’d be foolish if I discriminated against mobile visitors.  Currently, mobile visitors make up around 10% of our visitors, and whilst this might seem a lot, it’s a significant amount that is only going to grow.

Our company takes telephone orders too, and we don’t offer an inferior service to those calling us on mobile phones, so why would we offer an inferior service to those trying to buy from  our website on a phone, tablet, laptop or TV?

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