Some Notes on Responsive Web Design


This post doesn’t represent my entire session of research but I think it shows a few considerations as you look into Responsive Web Design.

By and large, mobile users want different things from your product than desktop users do. If you’re a restaurant, desktop users may want photos of your place, a complete menu, and some information about your history. But mobile users probably just want your address and operating hours. If you’re a blockbuster movie, desktop users probably want an immersive experience, including trailers and production details. On mobile, they probably just want to know where the nearest theater is and what time it’s showing. If you’re a calendaring application, desktop users probably want a full-featured suite of tools for adding and editing events. Mobile users are probably more focused on simply seeing what they’ve got going on today. If you’re a major retail site, desktop users may be more interested in browsing and shopping, whereas mobile users may be more interested in checking the status of an existing order.

In my experience, I rarely want to serve up the exact same HTML to mobile users that I do to desktop users. That’s not to say it neverhappens. For example, a blog or simple news site may be a case where mobile users really are looking for the same thing that desktop users are — perhaps the same HTML with a screen-specific layout will work great. But, by and large, mobile users have different goals, and that necessitates different HTML. Ethan, in his original article, recognizes this. Towards the end, he states, “if the user goals for your mobile site are more limited in scope than its desktop equivalent, then serving different content to each might be the best approach.”

That’s not at all to say that “Responsive Web Design” isn’t useful. On the contrary, I think it’s extraordinarily useful. There are countless ways in which media queries and fluid grids can be used to enhance the user experience of your site or application, and many of them have nothing to do with mobilization.

Rhett Soveran Said:
I really think plugins like WP-Touch are more likely to be the correct answer. That is to say—creating a different experience on different platforms (notably mobile). A problem with responsive is that if you want it to work on all devices you have to keep your page size (images and so on) very small. You can’t be forcing a mobile device to download a responsive, but image heavy design (presumably you’ll want to be way below 1MB). That being said, I’m always in favour of minimal design, but it’s not always the right answer for every project.

Responsive or Not?

Ian Stewart said:
I suppose the best answer to Should This Design be Responsive? is, like the answer to a lot of other questions, it depends. That said, I’m starting to feel pretty strongly that most designs could do with a responsive layout. I’d definitely agree that it’s not the only best practice though. That’s a great way of putting it.

Eric Replied:
If you take the stance that it’s all about the content and the reader, then I think it’s hard to make an argument that a design shouldn’t be responsive. People will eventually try to read your site on a Galaxy tablet or an iPhone … if it looks like crap on the smaller screen, it pains the reader. When it comes to front-end design, the most important thing is the user (reader) experience. If they suffer or have a difficult time consuming your content, then you’ve done something wrong.

Ian Replied:
The other half of the depends would be a site that could do better with an alternate mobile version of their content because there’s just so much there. Though in that case, you could probably argue that they need to refine their content rather than create a mobile-only version.

A Mobile Consideration. It’s About the People.

Rethinking the Mobile Web by Yiibu

View more presentations from Bryan Rieger

What is Mobile?

Mobile is not a smaller version of a website.

Mobile must be treated as a beast unto itself. There are varying devices in market from mobile browsers that lack a lot of functionality to smartphones that offer unique browser experiences (think iPhone and Android). On top of that , iPad and the new tablet revolution add a whole other layer of complexity into the the equation. The way someone accesses the content is fundamentally different from a Web experience, but most importantly, more and more consumers are using mobile as the first gateway to find out about your brand.

Mobile is gaining market share.

… and with that market share comes a lot of attention. Is the shift from a personal computer world to a mobile world happening fast? Deal with this: according to IDC, 101 million smartphones were sold in Q4, versus 92 million PCs (more on that here:Business Insider – The Smartphone Market Is Now Bigger Than The PC Market). We are quickly moving to a world where all of our connected (and interconnected) devices will be mobile (most of them already are) and that will be our primary way we connect to information, one another and yes, brands as well. In the MediaPostnews item, Mobile Rocks, the message is clear: “during the past year, technology improvements, device innovations and growing mobile media consumption have laid the foundation for the development of a strong mobile ecosystem. The challenge for marketers and brands will be how to successfully navigate through one of the most complex and rapidly evolving mediums the world has ever seen. The next year should be one of the most exciting in mobile history.”

Mobile is not the new Internet.

Mobile is something completely different. It’s portable. Voice still plays a factor in it. It will not be manipulated by a keyboard or a mouse (it will be touch). The content and context must be easy to use, deliver results fast and give immediate value to the consumer. On top of that, mobile will (quickly) become the default platform of connectivity. So, once again, you do not need a mobile version of your website… you need to be thinking about your connected consumer and how you are providing them with the information, resources and content when they want it, where they want it and how they want it.

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