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Dec 17, 2012

The Challenges Web Designers Face With Responsive Design

In the last year, it has been reported that nearly 12% of all website visits were made from mobile devices. This means, that websites are now being accessed by mobile devices, more than they ever have been. And it’s unsurprising really – I mean there are so many great gadgets out there for us to choose from – and many of them are becoming more and more affordable by the second.

Challenges of Responsive Web Design

It’s not something that’s gone unnoticed though – companies such as Apple and Samsung have recognised the sheer demand for mobile browsing and have released cheaper products to compete in the market more effectively. And it’s not gone unnoticed by the webdesign world either. In fact more and more individuals in our industry are noticing this huge increase in mobile browsing and developing and changing their projects and developments to adapt and survive.

It doesn’t, however, mean that web designers are completely stepping away from desktop design – as this is still a huge part of the browsing experience. What it means is finding new ways to communicate visually – and new designs that can adapt to a range of screen sizes and resolutions without freezing or crashing the system it rests on.

This is where responsive design has come into play – as responsive design allows a web designer to get the best of all worlds. Whether you’re accessing a site from a tablet or laptop – the website stays the same and adapts – even though the device has completely changed. The idea is simple – no matter what device you are browsing on (and no matter what the size) the website and the design can adapt to it. Saving you the hassle of designing several sites – each suited to an altogether different devices and/or screen size.

How can it do these things? Well responsive websites, and the designers who make them are designing with a flexible grid which in basic terms, means that they use media queries to regulate and determine each visitors unique, screen size for each website they happen to visit. This means that the content is then scaled accordingly, hassle free.

Expect it’s not hassle free – as you’ll find out. Here are the challenges we face:

1. Time

The time that goes into designing a successful responsively designed website – is often much longer than the time that goes into create ‘normal’ web designs. Why? Well it’s simple. This technique is newer and requires more attention to detail – something which (in any industry) is going to demand more of an investment of time and effort. Make sure you have this clear with your client before you begin though – so they don’t have unrealistic expectations in terms of timescale and completions time. If they’re on a strict timescale – it may be better to keep with what you know firstly – and upgrade to a responsive design later in the process.

2. Devices will always differ

As with anything – perfection doesn’t exist – and you’ll find some devices out there which don’t correspond to your design, whether it’s responsive or not. The sheer scope of devices now available should be evidence enough for that. Try not to worry yourself over this – and try to tackle the problem as calmly as you can. Whilst it won’t be possible to guarantee success on all devices – what you can do is identify the most popular devices with your customer base – and target the success towards those first.

3. Is it actually the right choice?

For some industries and brands – the mobile site is used in an entirely different way to the desktop site and the communication or usability the customers seeks may be hugely different too. Some sites may not actually need responsive design –and that’s OK. Try and decipher (because you make the time commitment) just how much your client will benefit with responsive design, and whether it’s worth their time and money to go ahead with it. Some companies would benefit more from specially designed sites, that are targeted towards web use and desktop use.

4. Media Queries

Responsive websites are fantastic when they’re successful and working correctly; but an aspect that largely decides whether or not they’ll be successful is that they work and customers can access them. Responsive website rely on media queries to help them determine the unique screen size of each user visiting the website – but media queries don’t actually appear automatically on all browsers. Older browsers such as Internet Explorer 8 don’t support them at all – which puts you in big trouble.

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