The last 12 months have shown the first reduction in the sales of personal computers and laptops in a decade. This number has not dropped since the “dot com” collapse in 2001, and it is happening again now because of the rapid growth of the smartphone and tablet market. In just a year, households which owned a tablet gadget rose from 2% to 11%, and 39% of UK adults own a smartphone, 12% more than in 2011.
This dramatic change in the tools people use to access the internet has forced a change in the way web designers and developers go about their work. No longer can they create a site which works in three different desktop browsers and consider their job done, because smartphone and tablet users increasingly expect the sites they visit to be optimised to suit the platform. The best websites are now designed in such a way that they respond to the device they are being viewed on and adjust the formatting accordingly.
Responsive web design is created to react to the platform it is viewed with. It means that websites which are accessed on a smartphone will not require a lot of resizing for the text to be legible, and sites visited on a tablet device will not display a smartphone-size site which ignores the tablet’s display options. The key points about responsive website design are that it makes sites:
- easy to read
- easy to navigate
- adaptable to the platform and device they are being viewed on
- able to cope with a phone or tablet being rotated
- appealing to look at
regardless of how they are being viewed, be it on an iPhone, Android tablet, laptop, Wii, netbook, and so on.
It is unrealistic nowadays to expect to be able to build a version of a site for every possible device. Looking at mobile phones alone, there are thousands of options, all of which could display the site in a slightly different way. Incorporating responsiveness into the design, on the other hand, is efficient and offers the best possible results.
Responsive web design is described as “industry best practice” by Google, which, “recommends webmasters [use] responsive web design, namely serving the same HTML for all devices and using only CSS media queries to decide the rendering on each device”.
Another option for mobile viewing is to create apps, although it is worth bearing in mind that 60% of tablet users prefer reading news on the mobile web than via an app, so a more suitable website is a good idea, even alongside a specially designed app.
E-commerce and business websites would be wise to update their website to a more responsive model, because three out of every 10 smartphone users searches for information about shopping locally on their phone, and over half of British tablet owners have bought something using their tablet device. This goes to show that ignoring how necessary it is to provide a great experience for phone and tablet users who visit your site could actually cost you sales.
A website built using the principles of responsive web design will offer its visitors an equally good experience, no matter how they access it. Its ability to detect the screen size, device type and software platform offers a seamless rendering of the site for the user to appreciate and enjoy. Wise webmasters know that this is an area where they do not want to be left behind, and responsive website design is the most efficient and effective way of making your site accessible, usable and attractive on every possible platform.