Posted by on Oct 13, 2013 in Blog, Websites

Ok… Ok, we have been asked one too many times about “responsive web design”. For anyone who doesn’t know… Responsive web design is web design that makes your website appear differently depending on the device (or screen size) that is used to view the site.  So, your site would look slightly different on a computer, and iPad/tablet, or your phone.  This can be very helpful for many businesses, however do you actually need it?

It depends on your business.  Yes, it is that simple…

If your customers or prospects will regularly access your site on something other than a regular computer… then responsive web design might work well for you. Notice I said “customers or prospects”. Not your friends, not other companies who want to design a site for you, but people who will give you money for your stuff or services. If your prospects are constantly in the field and need information on specific items or services, the sales generated from mobile web visits may very well make a responsive site worth doing.

Choosing to go with a responsive web design typically means that the development of your site could be more involved because you have to account for 3 or 4 different screen sizes which may make you actually do a little more work in terms of editing and making sure your images are solid.  The iPad Retina display looks amazing because of its high resolution screen. The low-res images of the chairs you are trying to sell that you took with you phone 3 years ago will look like crap. And although slightly off-topic, I have to say the following about product photography: If you are looking to re-design your site – please realize that we are a multi-media society that is naturally attracted to things that are pretty. It is worth it to make sure your photos are top notch. It is typically expensive for a reason… because it is worth it.

OK -back onto responsive web design tips, suggestions and points of conversation…

I’ve seen a lot of companies that will pitch customers on making several “versions” of your site. This WILL add time and costs to your final launch and general site maintenance as any changes will have to made on the desktop and mobile versions of your site. But there is actually a much smarter way that I like to incorporate as often as possible, which is using conditional styles that simply change how the single site displays (by reducing image sizes or scaling elements based on percentages) that – if done smartly – will make it so you have one site to keep up with and it will dynamically adjust for portrait or landscape viewing orientations, looks great on a mobile phone and is simply amazing on a desktop.

However, before you make any decisions, I have a few words of advice: Step into your potential or regular customer’s shoes to look at your site.  How do your customers access you site? What kinds of devices are they using? What operating systems and browsers are they using? What screen sizes? (This data is available in Google Analytics, btw.) After all that research is carefully looked over, then start the discussion about responsive web design to figure out if you need it or not.
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