Responsive web design has been so successful for many web designers that it’s generally seen as the default approach to website creation, but it’s not all that cut and dried.
There are many different factors to consider when deciding whether to use a responsive approach to designing your websites, such as budget, timescale and audience.
In this blog post, we will consider the pros and cons of responsive web design to help you make an informed decision.
What is Responsive Web Design?
In short, responsive web design (RWD) is a modern approach to designing websites that allows the website to respond intelligently to the device it’s being viewed on.
RWD uses techniques like media queries and relative units to create a flexible design that can grow or shrink depending on the screen size. Rather than having multiple versions for mobile and desktop, as in the past, this type of web design offers an all-in-one solution with a flexible layout that can be adapted to different situations.
RWD is often confused with mobile-first web design, firstly because mobile-first is a critical technique of responsive workflows, and secondly because the demand for RWD has increased as the number of of mobile device users who viewed the web. However, you can have a mobile first site that is not responsive.
Responsive web design essentially eliminates the need to have separate versions of sites for mobile and desktop devices.
The Benefits of Responsive Web Design
Responsive web design has seemingly endless benefits.
- UX-friendly: RWD is excellent to meet the needs of users. It allows users to access your website on any device, so they don’t have to switch devices. It also allows you to reach customers who do not have a computer and only use a mobile device such as a cell phone.
- Senior-friendly: RWD is good for SEO (Search Engine Optimization) because it helps people find your website on different devices, such as phones and computers. Also, because you don’t need to maintain separate versions of your website for mobile and desktop, Google is less likely to penalize your site for duplicate content.
- Cost effective: RWD can save a lot of time and money when creating multiple versions of the same website. In addition, responsive web design allows you to maintain one website instead of several others, which reduces maintenance and hosting costs.
- Future proof: As technology continues to evolve, responsively built websites will be able to quickly adapt and keep up with the changes. This means that with responsive web design, your website won’t become obsolete as quickly.
The Disadvantages of Responsive Web Design
While there are significant advantages to a responsive approach to building your websites, there are some disadvantages that are important to consider.
- One front: The biggest flaw of RWD is that it is a front only approach. This means that while you can change the layout of your website, you cannot change the actual content using responsive techniques.
- Design constraints: As smart as RWD can be, some design features don’t translate to different screen sizes; menus can be extremely difficult. You may have to compromise your vision to make a site responsive.
- Increased development time: Creating a responsive website can take much longer than creating two versions (one for mobile and one for desktop), so it’s important to factor in additional development time when considering RWD.
- Performance issues: RWD uses code to adapt the design to different viewpoints. That code adds to the website’s payload and, if not managed carefully, can affect the website’s performance.
Is Responsive Web Design Worth the Effort?
For the vast majority of sites, RWD is a practical approach to website creation. It increases the number of users you can attract and ensures that when they do come your users will have a better experience. RWD also improves your search engine ranking.
However, there are some situations where RWD is not the right choice. For example, if you need to deliver different content for mobile devices than desktop devices, you will need separate sites for each type of device.
Responsive Web Design Tips
If you choose a RWD approach, there are a number of things you can do to mitigate the drawbacks and ensure your website performs as well as you’d hoped.
- Design for multiple views soon: Create different designs for all visually significant sizes. Make sure you know how the design should scale to different sizes, so you don’t have to adapt the design as you build it.
- Select a mobile phone first: Take a mobile-first approach by designing the mobile version of your site before the desktop version; it is easier to scale a design up than to scale it down.
- Limit media inquiries: Media queries are great for adapting a design but quickly lead to code bloat. Instead, rely as much as possible on relative units and reserve media inquiries for necessary changes.
- Tested extensively: Testing is essential for responsive web design. You need to preview your finished site on as many devices as possible so you know how your users will see it.
Responsive web design can be a great option for most websites, as it allows you to create an experience that is optimized for different devices without the need for separate versions of your website.
However, RWD has some disadvantages that should also be considered before making a decision. It’s important to consider how much time and effort it will take to create a responsive site, whether you have content that needs to be different for mobile and desktop users, and whether there might be any performance issues. .
By following best practices, such as taking a mobile-first approach and spending extra time in the design phase to ensure you’ve prepared a layout for multiple viewpoints, you can ensure that it looks great your website on all devices and avoiding the potential pitfalls of RWD.
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