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As the devices that you can view websites on have proliferated, the challenge has grown to create sites that display and work equally well no matter what you’re using to browse them.
In terms of how this impacts the design of a site, responsiveness is the key factor. The central point of a website is to get the salient information to the user as quickly and cleanly as possible, whatever the device.
Factoring in the responsiveness of a website’s design should be the touchstone for its development. Today, you don’t know who, how or at what size someone is going to be viewing your content, responsive design means it looks great regardless.
Before any code is even contemplated for a new site, the proposed architecture should take into account how the site will be viewed. This demands both a technical and a visual design response. From a design perspective, the experience should be welcoming; the website’s identity, navigation and content needs to be familiar and easy to use on all viewing platforms.
Mobile is the fastest growing platform for viewing websites. It’s not that we’re reducing our viewing through desktop browsers, but more and more we’re all using the small touch-screens on our phones or tablets to view the web on the move or simply because it’s easier to pick up an iPad than a laptop.
Screen sizes are constantly changing, websites need to accommodate them all. Not everything is getting smaller. With the ‘4K’ generation of high definition screens just around the corner, websites have to be viewable via TVs and very large monitors as well as small hand-held devices.
Accordingly, it’s no good optimising a website just for the iPhone in your pocket or having three fixed layouts that are compromises. ‘Breakpoints’ - the screen sizes at which a website changes layout - should be few and minimal, so that a consistent user experience is maintained. Sometimes we even need to consider mobile view as the starting point of our designs. Rather than crippling a design as it shrinks down, we should be enhancing it as it grows.
Good responsive design isn’t about spending time chasing each and every screen size or shape, it’s about designing and building an adaptive, responsive, intuitive system, right from the start.