What is Responsive Web Design and When Should You Use It? Posted by: Greg on 12/03/2013

What is responsive web design and when should you use it? image

As users have begun to access websites on their mobile devices with greater frequency the response from the web development/design community has taken a number of twists and turns.

In the old days (2010) Screenmedia’s (and most of the rest of the world’s) response was to create a mobile version of the website design. We would then use code to find out if the person viewing the website was doing so on a mobile device and show them the mobile version. This worked to a point, however, given the almost monthly release of new mobile devices and the inherent difficulties of detecting a user’s device accurately, a new method was needed.

Enter responsive web design.

Back in May of 2010, Ethan Marcotte wrote what has now become a seminal article for the blog ‘a list apart’. In this article Ethan proposed using a system already recognised by most browsers to ‘adjust’ the layout of a web page to optimise it for the width of the browser being used. No more trying to decide if the user was using an iPhone or an Android - it doesn’t matter anymore, we now build our websites to display as beautifully as possible for any screen width.

When should I use responsive and when should I build an app?

This decision is an important one; however there are some very clear guidelines which you can follow to help you make your choice:

When to build an app:

  • You want to make use of the features of the phone: camera, GPS etc…
  • You want the user to be able to use the system even if they don’t have a 3g or wifi connection.
  • You want people to pay to download and use your app.

When to go responsive:

  • Budget! Building apps is expensive work and 9 times out of 10 a website is a more cost effective way to reach your audience.
  • You want your content to be available to any user on any device. If you build an iPhone app it will only be available to iPhone users and the costs involved in building the same app for different devices is often prohibitively expensive.

In our experience most customers’ needs can be more effectively met with a good responsive website rather than an app, however there is a time and a place for a good app and we can help guide you in your decision making process.

Further reading:

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