Responsive web design is everywhere. It’s become the one “must have” thing that nearly every one of my own new and existing clients asks for and I suspect by their language that they don’t even really know what it is! They’ve just heard it mentioned somewhere, perhaps on some social media course.
The first thing we should start with is a definition I suppose. My own definition as I understand it is this:
Responsive Web Design involves building a website layout or design that “responds” or more accurately “adapts” to whatever device it’s showing on.
Responsive web design exists as a supposed solution to the (quite considerable) problem of designing a layout that is consistent across a crazy number of different screen sizes and resolutions. Traditionally what was done was a different mobile friendly and more minimalist version of the site was shown in place of the original full design. This involved browser/device detection that wasn’t always accurate and you also needed to build two or more versions of your website at greater time and expense not just to build initially but also to maintain.
Responsiveness was a fairly commendable and logical way of sorting the issue requiring as it does just one version of a site that changes shape to suit the screen size or even orientation.
Here’s my first problem!
Why has it come to be known as “responsive” rather then “adaptive”!? To me the word “responsive” means a response to something that happens. An actual event that requires a response. A phone merely existing doesn’t really require a response!? “Adaptive” is a far better word. The website adapts to whatever obstacle it encounters.
Nothing stays the same. It’s getting pretty hard to get a good modern smart phone with a small screen size. “Phablets” (cross between phone and tablet) like the new iPhone 6 are pretty massive and very capable of showing a full static website layout in all its intended glory without moving stuff around.
I don’t like the liberties responsive design takes with your design. It completely rearranges your layout, resizes your images and other block elements, making some way louder or quieter that you intended. Menus are often completely collapsed into an icon you have to click on to navigate requiring an extra step for the user.
Responsive design is supposed to get over the problem of having to pinch in and out of your screen to zoom but when it rearranges your content into one long single column you are scrolling endlessly!? See my short video below and see which you think is more effort:
I’ll build a responsive site if you really want. It’s not extra hassle and it certainly wont cost you more. It’s probably easier for me actually! But please entertain the possibility that you may not need a responsive site. It’s just another option.