The Latest on Responsive Web Design


Today I attended Brad Frost’s presentation entitled “Beyond Squishy: The Principles of Adaptive Design”. Brad is a designer and developer that’s really developed a passion for the multi-device web. Brad really stresses the philosophy of “one web” – where users can access your content anywhere, on any device, at any time. Mobile context is really an out of date notion. Not every user is actually mobile. A large percentage of users browse the web on their phones or tablets sitting on the couch, or even using the bathroom. Your content should be accessible no matter what. You can compare it to water in the sense that you should be able to flow it into any container or layout.

Responsive design is all about embracing the inherent fluidity of the web. A web page with no CSS or JavaScript will adapt and work in any browser or on any device. The only way to try and future-proof your websites is with a progressive enhancement approach and building up from the most fundamental pieces. How else can you ensure that they will work for a car, appliance, watch, glasses, or the bevy of other devices that could enter the market in the near future?

One of the biggest flaws pointed out with responsive websites is performance. Users expect websites to load just as fast on mobile as they do on desktop, even though mobile networks and hardware isn’t equipped to do that. On average, you have 5 seconds before a user will lose interest and give up if forced to wait on a loading page or content. Performance is tough because performance is really invisible. There’s also so many technical factors involved. One notion that’s been suggested is the idea of a “Performance Budget”, where you set a page weight or speed goal and every factor that will effect that negatively gets deducted from it. That way, performance doesn’t become an afterthought.

Responsive design isn’t going away any time soon. If we don’t start considering it as a solution for a multi-device web, then we’re going to lose the ability to engage fully with our customers and consumers.

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