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Why responsive web design is here to stay

Jonathan Hassell | Nov. 7, 2013
Most Web design trends are just that. But in an increasingly mobile world, with an increasingly diverse number of mobile devices, the principles of responsive Web design aren't going to go away. Here are three ways developers need to respond to the demands of responsive Web design.

Web design techniques come and go like fads. Remember Asynchronous JavaScript and XML? For several months in 2006 and 2007, Ajax was all the rage. Now, not so much. A sea change in the way people use technologies has seen one Web development paradigm rise up over the past few months, this time with staying power: Responsive Web design.

The principle of responsive web design and development ensures a website can be viewed from any device, with any size screen, with an experience that gracefully moves from step-down to step-up. It's about respecting the fact that users want to consume website experiences on their 4-inch mobile smartphone screen, their 7-inch mini tablet screen, their full-size 10-inch tablet device, their laptop screen and even their big-screen 4H HDTV. The design is responsive because it constantly takes into account the properties of the device and the browser on which the user consumes the content.

Responsive Web design judiciously uses grids, which let developers define how an experience will scale, as well as flexible images, formats and containers. It also represents a change of mindset for the developer, since he or she now prescribes relative sizes, such as 2.5 units wide, instead of definitive, specific measurements, such as 202 pixels, when placing and sizing elements of a page.

By using relative and not definitive measurements for elements on a page and their containers, the basic design and usability of a page can be maintained while scaling up and down on different browser sizes — that is, the site can be responsive to these changes. Pages can gracefully eliminate elements that don't fit in a smaller window, too, and gain them back when the browser is later enlarged or un-zoomed.

If you haven't already heard about responsive Web design, you're certainly destined to be exposed to it. Even Google, arguably one of the gatekeepers of the Web industry, since designers build websites essentially to attract and retain the Google crawler and convince it to rank their sites highly in users' search engine queries, has embraced responsive Web design.

"Google recommends webmasters follow the industry best practice of using responsive web design, namely serving the same HTML for all devices and using only CSS media queries to decide the rendering on each device," the search giant says in its Google webmasters guide.

Here's what you need to know about responsive Web design and how it coalesces with our current environment.

Users Demand First-class Mobile Browsing Experiences
PCs are becoming passé. An increasing portion of your target audience uses devices that don't support the traditional width resolutions in the browser. They demand a first-class experience on their phones first and their desktops a distant second.

 

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