What is Responsive web design – Everything a business ever needs to know

Responsive Web Design everythingResponsive design is the hottest topic in the world of web design and for a good reason. Given the fact that accessing internet on a mobile device (and tablets) has been gaining explosive growth from last 3 years (Almost 100% increase) it’s apparent that mobile devices will soon replace the age old desktops. Below is a glimpse of internet usage across the world (check the graphs).

What this means for an ordinary business is that you would have to serve your website (your online brand) in a way that is worth consuming even on a mobile device. That’s what the Responsive web design fuss is all about (RWD). Now there is a good news and bad news. Good news is that the mobile processing power, internet speed and the browser software has improved significantly; however the screen size hasn’t grown significantly (and will never ever grow even though you share that stupid iPhone 20 pic a hundred times on facebook).

World internet usage pattern mobile vs PC, iPhone 20 (joke) and Indian internet usage pattern

World internet usage pattern mobile vs PC, iPhone 20 (joke) and Indian internet usage pattern

So what we are left off with is a choice to either assume that the mobile will someday grow up and will handle your website with dignity OR to capitalize on this opportunity and be responsive to your customer. Responsive via your web design.

That was a quick update on what Responsive web design is and why it matters. Let’s get into answering all the obvious questions.

What options are available today?

So once you digest the fact that you cannot hide from these mobile figures, you are left with following options starting with the best to the average.

  1. Make a mobile app for your website/web app (Costly, Time consuming and not advisable for every website).
  2. Make your website the way you want and have another website specifically for mobile phones (Less Costly, more tedious to manage and a pain due to web standards).
  3. Make a responsive web design that keeps best foot forward on every screen (Comparatively cheaper, faster go to market but not as powerful as above options)

Did you notice that I have ordered the above list in the ‘best to average’ fashion? Yes. Responsive web design is ATLEAST what one has to have in this era. You can’t imagine how weird your default old-school website will look on mobile phones. But as this web-man says – With great quality experience comes great price. Every one can’t afford an app. Also an app takes ages to come live on App Stores and $$$ to start with. A different mobile website means that you need to detect every screen (3.4 inch mobiles, 5.6 inch phablets, 7.00 inch tabs and 10 inches iPads) and then code the website right for the experience. Finally all you have a website is for users to search via engines and get hooked to; and even the SEO / Google gods have finally showered their love on RWD.

Myths about Responsive web design

The sad part of internet revolution is that everyone gets a moment of fame to disperse gyaan (knowledge). Any misfit with a blog (that’s me) can shed opinion online. One such article which I saw getting tweeted by quite a few friends was this on WPManage written by Tom. I understand and accept that RWD is not an answer to all your problems but the article makes very weak comments about RWD. One purpose of this post is to burst these myths.

Heres what the author of the misleading article says and my take on the views.

  • It defeats user expectations (Example of a blog where the menu gets pushed downwards on mobile)
  • My take – RWD is an approach to ensure User Experience. The example does it absolutely wrong. Almost all the sites I have seen, the menu does come above the content. It is the way you implement RWD. A lazy carpenter curses his tools. Tweet this
  • RWD is costly
  • My take – The answer is the way you look at it. It is stupid to compare the cost of a Responsive web design to a non-responsive one as done in the article. Non-Responsive is neither an option nor alternative to RWD. Compare apples to apples. What you need to compare is the cost of responsive vs other alternatives like dedicated mobile sites or apps. And you immediately realize that Responsive web Design is the fastest, cheapest and easiest route to augment the mobile users experience.
  • Non-Responsive Designs Usually Work
  • My Take – Again a wrong comparison. The author uses a retina enabled apple gadget called iPhone to view the website! What about other cheaper phones? I have been using touch devices from my kindergarten days and even if the pinch and zoom jugglery comes handy to read a few sentences you just can’t experience the whole stuff by keeping on pinching and zooming to read various sections. Also once you zoom you have to start scrolling horizontally and vertically. One of the best ways to kill user experience. Responsive is designed to handle this.
  • There is Often No Load Time Benefit
  • My take – Brother I can’t agree more :) Yes if you find someone bashing every point probably the critic is wrong. All said, the author is right since most responsive web designs still have to load the whole page, which means it’s a waste to bandwidth on mobiles. However, I believe this will soon be a story of Stone Age as better internet connectivity is available. Even countries like India have started getting their first glimpse of 4G!
  • It’s a Compromise
  • My take – Again it is the way you take it. Compare it to Apps/Dedicated mobile site’s experience and you will agree it’s substandard. My conclusion is if you have the time, money, expertise and patience (choose 3 out of 4) you can go ahead with fighting the RWD spirit. Else you would have to go the responsive way
Responsive website preview

Mobile preview of BizDharma and ManageWp where the article was posted

Who am I? and how to go responsive?

So who am I? Am I credible enough to thread bare topics like these or bash other articles? I have worked in the IT industry for a decade and left as a Project manager and I try to understand the internet more than anything else (That was me tooting my horns). But over and above that I am a mere mortal entrepreneur. The one who sits on the fences to observe where are people falling and then jump into the play and grab some opportunities. RWD is one of them.

I have personally played with responsive frameworks and found them awesome. The two immediate alternatives for the geeks reading this is Twitter Bootstrap and Zurb foundation. Both are good and zurb is my personal choice. I was shocked to see developing a complete responsive site just in an hour here. Next even this business blog will go responsive.

To prove that I am independently judging RWD without any influence of spirits let me highlight

Disadvantages of Responsive Web Design

  1. In most cases your site will load completely and hide unnecessary parts which mean on slow connections it is a pain.
  2. You would have to ensure every browser gives the right adaptation (which means start hating Microsoft). But in most cases the frameworks come handy and gets job done well.
  3. It’s still a website and hence the app like response, shine etc will not be delivered. But go to market will always be fast
  4. Not just text and structure, your images and videos too need to be responsive. And there are a tonnes of resources to achieve that
  5. You would have to redesign your old-school site from ground up! But you don’t have an option if 25% of your customers will check you on their mobile phones.

As Krishna said – “Change is the essence of life”. (Sorry can’t link him, Krishna doesn’t seem to have a twitter handle :) )

Finally I would like to open this to your views and end it with a quote by which pretty much summarizes the lesson -

“It is either Mobile first or Dead First”  Tweet this

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