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Responsive Web Design: Why You Can No Longer Ignore The Smartphone

09 2012
Responsive Web Design: Why You Can No Longer Ignore The Smartphone

In recent years screen resolutions for desktop computing have increased and this has had the effect of designers generally wanting to take advantage of these increased resolutions by designing “bigger”. This makes a lot of sense because larger graphics tend to have more impact upon the person looking at a website on a large LCD monitor and HD resolutions will be the next thing.

However this presents a challenge to the website designer because at the same time the smartphone revolution is in full swing and there is an increasing demand for websites that look good and function well on smaller form factors (smart phones and tablets). In today’s market place a website should be designed to operate effectively across a range of screen sizes and resolutions.

The Facts – Smartphone Usage In The UK

First of all, let’s look at some compelling facts to see how smartphones have revolutionised the way we are looking at websites:

  • There are more mobile phones in the UK than people
  • The number of smartphone searchers doubles every two months
  • In 2010, Google became a ‘mobile-first’ company (this means they develop their sites and tools on mobiles first)
  • Smartphone sales overtook PC sales last year (two years earlier than expected)
  • In three years time, tablet sales will be bigger than PC sales
  • Smartphone sales will continue to grow – will be 3 times the sales of pc’s
  • 52% of UK mobile phone users have a smartphone
  • 28% of internet usage is from a mobile phone
  • 19% of search queries in the travel industry are from mobiles (was 11% in 2011)
  • 16% of search queries in retail are from mobiles (was 10% in 2011)
  • 19% of search queries in the entertainment industry are from mobiles (was 10% in 2011)
  • 20% of all YouTube views are from a mobile device
  • Mothers day 2012 – 50% of all online sales came from mobile devices
  • 28% of people in the UK have purchased something using their phone

I could wheel out other facts but that is enough to see that the smart phone now needs to be taken seriously. It goes without saying that if a competitor of yours has a website that looks very slick and is easier to use on a mobile device than yours then you risk getting left behind.

So What Should Website Owners Do?

You should be prepared to invest in a mobile compliant website. Yes, this involves spending some money but you have to appreciate that it will take your web designer longer to design and build a responsive mobile website than a site which is of fixed width for a desktop system. For my company this adds about 50% to the cost. But once done properly you will have a website that offers an optimal viewing experience for all of your visitors.

What Will A Responsive Website Offer Your Visitors?

Your website will respond to the screen resolution of the device and render a website that will look “right” (no more scrolling around on smartphones to see the entire page).

The number of columns will typically be reduced for smaller devices.

Your content will most likely remain the same, the presentation will change although sometimes some web sites choose to remove some content for smaller screen displays.

To put it all a little more technically:

  • The site will use CSS3 media queries to adapt the layout to the viewing environment—along with fluid proportion-based grids and flexible images
  • This use of Media queries will allow the page to use different style rules based on characteristics of the device the site is being displayed on, most commonly the width of the browser.
  • Flexible images will typically be used, sized in relative units (up to 100%), in order to prevent them from displaying outside their containing element.
  • Elements such as playing of video content will need to be implemented in formats that will be compatible across all devices, from smartphones and tablets (that generally use HTML 5) to older browsers (such as Internet Explorer version 8 et al).

So don’t get left behind, I would encourage you to make plans to ensure that your website is fully responsive and able to operate effectively on today’s platforms.