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Should you jump on the ‘responsive’ bandwagon?

Responsiveness is thrown around a lot in the web design world these days because of the massive move to more

A Friday night in with the dogs (reading Respo...

(Photo credit: Chasing Daisy)

portable devices.  When your designer asks you the question, “Do you want your site to be responsive?”, do you know what they are asking, though?  And what are the pros and cons?

Responsive websites are sites that use special coding that responds to the viewers screen size, type of device and orientation (ie: landscape or portrait.)  It will actually change the way the page looks accordingly so that it is easier to view on that device.  Sounds good, right?  It is.  However, there are a few trade-offs to consider as well.

  • Performance of the website might be hindered somewhat, depending on how the responsiveness is accomplished and how many separate files it is required to ‘call’ in.
  • Logos and the top area in general (headers) may need to be smaller and more simple in design to not get ‘squeezed’ when the page shrinks to accommodate the smaller views. (Rather than there be a scroll bar for a non-responsive site, leaving the area intact.)
  • Images and graphics need to be smaller as well, optimized for faster loading and kept to a minimum. When someone is downloading your site on their cell phone, they’re potentially paying for that download through their cell service, so less is more.
  • Flash doesn’t work on all devices, so if it’s included on your site and you want responsiveness, you will need to consider that it might not show up for some users.
  • Complicated navigation doesn’t always translate well to responsive design.

You can track your visitors to see what types of devices they are viewing your site with, then if you find that you’re getting a lot of traffic from tablets or smartphones, it might be worth considering.  Also, ask yourself how complicated your site is and does it need to remain as such?  If it is a fairly simple site anyway, it could potentially benefit from a more responsive design.

As with any web design, it’s always good to think of who your visitors are. Look at your site from their perspective as a good starting point.  Ask friends to test your site on various devices.  Is it difficult to navigate? Loads slowly? Looks completely different when not on a desktop? Then it might be time to think about responsiveness.


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