Responsive Design: Coming to a Site Near You
As we said in our post, ‘web design for the ultra-connected consumer’, you can no longer rely on your website if it is not optimised for mobile devices, particularly smartphones. 2013 is the year mobile phones overtake PCs as the most common form of web access worldwide, so you’ve got to move with the times, creating a slick, fluent layout for your site that looks great on smaller screens; if you’re reading this on a smartphone, then you’ll know what we’re talking about.
What is responsive design, and how can I use it?
Responsive web design turns an awkward encounter between easily distracted consumers and a static website into a natural experience; a key concept being respect, if you do not respect your audience in your design trends they will not give you the time of day. Responsive design is about adapting and reacting to the environment in which your online presence, including your website and email content is viewed; making it easier for your audience to see your content regardless of which device they’re using. It also enhances legibility; studies have shown reading and understanding content is twice as difficult on a mobile phone than on a PC, so your content has to be concise and skim-able to give your audience a fighting chance.
Your consumers are on the go…
Additionally, there’s a good chance that when someone visits your site, opens an email, or reads your blog, wherever they are is a non-optimal viewing environment; they may be on to go, and don’t have the time or patience to sift through poorly arranged, wordy content; like we said, the ultra-connected consumer is easily distracted. An effective way of countering this is ‘progressive disclosure’, peppering your site with expandable links that take up little space and are non-intrusive, allowing your audience to interact as they please, but providing cues to content that they may find engaging.
Window to the world…
Your website is your window to the world, so obviously, working with mobile you’ve closed the curtains slightly, and have to prioritise effectively; think single-column designs, key content and functionality; these are the three commandments of responsive design for mobile devices. For the typographers out there, sans serif works like a charm on mobile, whereas serifs have too much going on. Also, dark text against a light background is just fine; avoid patterned backgrounds as they take focus away from content.
Unfortunately an issue we have to contend with is download speed, particularly with 3G; a slick, finely optimised site for mobile will load a hell-of-a lot faster than one loaded with overzealous imagery and text. However, if your site does take a while to load, it’s certainly not a bad idea to have some ‘while you wait…’ content to keep your audience entertained.
What do we think?
Responsive design is a leap towards enhancing the consumer relationship, as it is based on respect, using coherent designs to let your audience actually, and we mean actually, read your content. 2013 has been called ‘the year of responsive design’, and we don’t think it’s going to go away anytime soon.
For some truly creative examples of responsive design in practice, give us a follow on Twitter; responsive design is the topic on everyone’s lips at the moment and we’re always sharing work that inspires us.