One of the most important trends for contemporary website development, responsive design involves being able to view the same site on different devices without having to use mobile optimized versions of pages; by using CSS3 style sheets and flexible grids and images, it’s possible for sites that use responsive design to adapt to whatever device is being used to view it, with the effect of reducing the amount of work that has go into designing different versions of that site.
Responsive design aims to solve the challenge of having to reproduce the same website across different devices – the smaller the screen, the more chance there is of important information being lost or misrepresented; while it has been common in the past to use a mobile version of a page, responsive design provides a different way around the problem. CSS3 style sheets can include media queries that will recognize a screen size and match it to preset sizes, which are then implemented by flexible grids, and by different options for images.
Many sites that use responsive design also employ HTML5 as a way of making it much easier for pages to be run as simply as possible in terms of the amount of code that has to be loaded for a page. The main benefits of taking this approach is that pages will load to the right size and proportions for a particular device, and in doing so saves on the cost of having to produce a different code for your website across platforms.
Another advantage of using responsive design is that websites that use the same URL, rather than having to create a mobile version of a page, will produce clearer SEO results – Google support using responsive design as a way of simplifying URL, and for making it much easier to track the number of hits that individual pages receive. Responsive design can consequently help to future proof sites as more and more users access them on tablets and other mobile devices.
There is, however, some criticism of responsive design, most notably in terms of how media queries will still not be able to adapt to every single screen size possible; critics point out that responsive design enabled versions of a site won’t always be best for particular types of content, whereby it can be difficult to reproduce text and images without having to lose something from the design. In the same way, critics of responsive design suggest that loading times are not any faster for users, and that responsive design effectively represents a compromise, rather than a solution to multiple device habits.
The potential future of responsive design ultimately comes down to the streamlining and cost saving benefits that it can provide to many businesses; responsive design isn’t going to work for every website, with pages that have a lot of text being difficult to resize in ways that won’t cut something out. However, by designing a few different variations of the same page for different screen sizes, it is possible to create a relatively simple series of page versions that can be better viewed on multiple devices.