If like me you are a regular smartphone user, you will be painfully aware of the inconsistency of the mobile web browsing experience. There are just too few websites out there that are optimised for mobile browsing and even those that supposedly have mobile versions are often so stripped back that the experience and content is very compromised. For whatever reason the very large mobile browsing audience has been either ignored or at best under-served by marketers who just have not put sufficient budgets aside to properly cater to mobile.
This is beginning to change though due to an exciting new technology called responsive design.
This new technology represents a paradigm shift in the way web designers and developers think about platforms. Through responsive design, web teams learn to disregard the old rules about designing for the widest audience, pitching the site width somewhere that was acceptable on both laptops and desktop computers. This technology enables designers to use the entire screen width of whatever device the website is shown on. This means that a website can be designed to use up all the available acreage of a 22" iMac but also be fully functional on a 4" mobile phone.
This is a real boon for marketers and communication professionals who until recently had to choose between doing nothing, developing an unsatisfying mobile website, or creating a costly app for each of the smartphone operating systems. A good responsive website can change all that, deliver a single unified experience of high standard to all visitors. This is particularly valuable for the B2B market.
Consumers have so far been happy to download native apps to enhance their experience of their mobiles and favourite brands, and as a result marketers have focused on apps at the core of their mobile strategy. For B2B marketers however, there is not the expectation that your clients will download an app to enhance their experience of your website or on-line marketing activity. This factor coupled with the rise in popularity of HTML email marketing has cast a spotlight on websites that cannot be effectively navigated from a mobile device. 30% of the recipients of every B2B email marketing campaign are expected to respond from a mobile; a fact which should spur all B2B marketers to look at their mobile strategy immediately.
How it Works
Responsive design relies on a technology called CSS3 - specifically a feature called "Media Queries". Media Queries attach specific web site styles to various physical constraints these may be the width of the browser window or the type of device. Responsive web design however utilizes media queries and specialized modular styles to adapt the web site to a variety of display form factors. The image sizes that are appropriate for widescreen layouts are not appropriate for mobile-phone layouts. Responsive designs will either load new images for different layouts or load full-sized images and re-size them.
Because this is a new technology, it has some limitations. The most obvious limitation is that CSS3, while supported by all modern web browsers, is not supported by some older web browsers; specifically IE6-8, which are still fairly widespread. It is possible to design-in graceful fallback functionality so that the website will still work on older browsers. The other drawback is that more processing needs to be done on the device. This can make websites load more slowly on older hand helds and on very slow connections. These problems will become less troublesome in months to come: this is a fast moving area of development and shouldn't really be an obstacle to making responsive design a part of your cross platform and mobile strategy.
Here is a working example of a responsive website recently developed by Fast Fwd. http://www.cpadjusting.com/