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Permanent Tourist

A personal website by Mark Howells-Mead

Shut up about responsive design

The term “responsive design” refers to the fact that a website is suitable for viewing on any device, from a smartphone to a super-sized t.v. screen. But is it actually important, nearly four years after the requirement became prevalent, that this term is still applied when selling a project to a client?

Back in “the day”, you’d often see a request or demand from the website owner that the website was “best viewed in Internet Explorer at a resolution of 1024x768px”. Then web standards prevailed and it became unfashionable to cajole the visitor. It was the job of the web designer to ensure that the website worked in all browsers. Users should be welcomed and the website should “just work”, whether they were using a Microsoft or a Netscape browser.

Some years down the line, web designers began needing to prepare sites for mobile devices. The focus moved on from not only considering the browser type, but the screen size too. Since 2010, we’ve all seen how the iPhone, iPad and Android devices have exploded in popularity. Statistics show that smaller screen devices, which are often used whilst travelling around, are gradually becoming the norm. Some of the bigger sites I maintain receive around a third of their traffic from mobile devices, and the curve is trending upward.

So why are we still shouting about responsive design as if it’s the next new thing? It isn’t. I haven’t made a website without cross-device compatibility for over three years. If someone asked for a website which didn’t work on smartphones, I’d be stumped as to why anyone with a proper need would actively choose to shut out a third or more of their visitors.

Unless you’re developing a complex cross-device app, there isn’t much extra work involved in creating a website which works well on all device sizes. If you abandon the outdated method of individual pixel-precise Photoshop files and conceive the layout and functionality of your website beginning at the smallest resolution and working up, a three-tier self-scaling website is fairy simple. By choosing from a range of ready-made solutions, such as menu generation scripts and layouts based on common grids, you can save masses of time whilst implementing tried and tested solutions.

There’s no need to re-invent the wheel every time you need a wheel. It works as it works: learn and profit from the expertise of others to save yourself time and support the real needs of your client’s visitors, instead of working out how to cram an over-complicated project into a small budget limit.

Save time and improve the end result by applying tried and tested practices for navigation and page layout, so that you can use the budget to create a unique and stylish website for your client which works on all internet-capable devices.