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Responsive Web Development

Responsive Web Development  is a must for any new website about to get launched. As new types of devices and resolutions emerge, building a presentable website for all new advancements is not feasible. Developers shouldn’t have to make the choice of designing for certain browsing environments over others. Sacrificing users who receive a poor experience on a device not chosen for custom development. Thankfully, there is a different way

“Responsive web design (RWD) [Responsive Web Development] is a web development approach that creates dynamic changes to the appearance of a website, depending on the screen size and orientation of the device being used to view it. RWD is one approach to the problem of designing for the multitude of devices available to customers, ranging from tiny phones to huge desktop monitors” (Schade, Amy).Responsive Web Development, Renton, WA, 98058

The application of RWD utilizes versatile images, layouts, and grids combined with CSS to change the appearance of a web page. Users can view the same website from desktops, tablets, or phones. Formatting conditions are determined by their viewport size and orientation. The developer writes the code to respond to the user’s environment, eliminating the need to generate multiple designs for each platform in use/development.

You might think responsive web development is a newer invention; however, it was almost ten years ago when developers were at the front of the resolution revolution. A variety of new devices and display technology allowed users to browse on a growing profusion of screen sizes. Some with the ability to quickly switch between landscape or portrait orientation. The growing trend proved difficult to keep up with at first.

Images frequently broke page layouts. Web pages could become difficult to use or read if a user browsed from an unfamiliar platform. Forms could be unbearable to fill out. Potential customers, frustrated with too poor appearance or functionality of a website, could leave, or worse yet, go to a competitor’s site instead.

Dynamic image flexibility and design techniques on content emphasis gradually emerged to provide developers with some options to design one page with multiple viewing options, even on different devices.

Smartphone and mobile device use has grown to outpace traditional desktop browsing. People are using handheld devices to research purchases and local business more often. An infographic (Spillers, Frank) from Experience Dynamics stated nearly 80% of mobile users will leave a website to find one that will allow them to accomplish their task. It also stated 77% of mobile searches are made in the home or office, even when a computer is nearby. It is imperative that developers take this behavior into account.

The mobile-first approach was recently developed to address this by designing content to fit on mobile and smaller screened type devices first, then gradually working up towards the larger-screened devices. Google is pushing developers to be more mobile friendly by ranking mobile optimized websites higher in searches than their non-optimized counterparts.(“Mobile Friendly Websites”) Google also released this helpful tool (“Is Your Web Page Mobile Friendly?”) to help you test if a site is mobile friendly. But, Google isn’t the only company paving the way for responsive web development.

Grids are a key addition to the mobile world. Originally gaining popularity from Pinterest, the Card UI breaks down content into separate cards for the user to easily navigate between. Large amounts of content containing text, images, or videos can be sorted through quickly for topics of interest. The utilization of the swipe gesture has grown with this interface as well, increasing functionality for mobile users.

The Grid/Card UI’s attributes fit well with mobile first and responsive design ideologies. Intended primarily for mobile users, but scaling up easily to large screen sizes, the Card UI will be a dominant implementation for some time to come.

What exactly can we do with all of these up and coming developing web responsive technology now? Conceptually, responsive web design is a fairly simple idea and it can effectively make a website much more user and device friendly. However, this all depends on whether or not it can be properly implemented via html5 and CSS. To begin with, certain elements and variables need to be identified in order to determine which methodology is required to implement responsive web design. A good start is to determine what different devices are on the market and how many different aspect ratios you intend to support. As a generalization, there are four separate categorizations based on general dimensions that responsive web design should be able to adhere to.  Some of these are smartphones, small laptops and tablets, full sized laptops and computer monitors. The separation between these general dimensions would be referred to as breakpoints. Some of these have some overlap, such as larger smartphones on the market usually referred to as phablets or some full-sized laptops and desktops. After determining how many potential aspect ratios your website may have to support, you should determine the prevalence of the varying ones. This means taking an analytical approach and inspecting market shares of different devices and browsing habits and also doing some number crunching of either current or expected site traffic. This means if your site is generally viewed in office spaces and is more of a workplace-oriented website, your focus should be on desktop functionality but provide additional support for other devices just so those viewing your content can do so from anywhere.

After determining different variables that affect your needs for responsive web design, you could begin working on the proper coding to establish responsive web design. Some things to keep in mind before beginning the coding process is that as websites become more complex, developing code with responsive web design becomes progressively more difficult. To avoid potential difficulties, simplifying the website and limiting embedded content such as pictures, video, and background graphics can ease the process of CSS coding for responsive web design. Another thing that can make the process less arduous is by minimizing redundancy, although good coding should already have taken care of that.

As for specific coding methods, tips and strategies for implementing responsive web design, there are several different approaches that can be taken to make it work. A very common practice is using percentages rather than dimensions for different elements of the webpage. That way, rather than the page consistently loading a header photo that’s 50px X 200px, you can set it as something like “img { max-width: 100%; }”, with percentage variation depending on how much space you intend on using. This way, when the webpage detects the display size, it’s able to shift elements according to the display size while still keeping the general appearance of percentage-sized elements. This doesn’t work for everything, because since some devices can vary so much in size, so you may have to use different sizing methods to fit different devices. Another method that works well for navbars and things like that is by using inline html5, and using if else statements to establish different ranges of aspect ratios that can decide how large each element of the webpage might be. For example, something along the lines of “

if(max-width == “500px”)

document.getElementById(“other”).setAttribute(“style”,”width:200px; height:100px”);

else

document.getElementById(“other”).setAttribute(“style”,”height:20%; width:85%;”); “

This can be useful when you want the website to show up a certain way on your main source of traffic in terms of devices, and a different way on any other potential site viewers. Another useful tip is using relative placement rather than fixed placement so that the contents of the webpage will be much easier to shift around depending on the device display. The easiest way to do this is to pick a parent element, and have the rest of the contents of the webpage arrange depending on the placement you determine. Again, using percentages is useful so that arrangements you want to remain the same in relation to the parent element will do just that.

Although responsive web development is extremely convenient and does have its uses, it comes with drawbacks and is not always a fix-all solution. Like most solutions to problems, responsive web design is situational and its effectiveness is determined by what the websites and the visitors’ needs are.

On the positive spectrum, there are many reasons as to why you would want to use responsive web design. A good place to start is that since you are only responsible for creating a single web page, the time spent developing the web page can be drastically decreased. A reduction in time spent developing the site means that payments issued to employees won’t be as much if they make hourly wages. Also, it potentially requires fewer people to develop the web page, because instead of having two teams working on separate websites, you could have one team complete the responsive web page. All in all, responsive web design is a cheaper and possibly more efficient method of developing web pages. Again, since it’s only necessary to create one webpage with responsive web design, the websites SEO ranking will be improved by a lot since that particular site will accumulate all potential web traffic rather than collect them separately based on the mobile, desktop and tablet versions of the website. As we all know, a better SEO results in more traffic, and more visitors is always better. Building on the concept of only one URL being necessary, no redirects are required after loading the webpage and you will always be taken straight to the homepage after clicking the link. Personally, I know that if I go to a website and I get redirected and it happens to take a long time, I’m probably not going to that website, especially in a mobile environment where loading a page can take a little time. Since all traffic will be directed to that single webpage, analyzing statistics of site visitors is much easier. Compiling analyzations and then marketing and making design changes based on the findings will easily boost the popularity and accessibility of the site.

As for negative aspects of responsive web design, there are much less but the individual cons are much heftier than most of the pros mentioned earlier. To begin with, responsive web design might not always be a viable solution for different websites. If the needs for mobile devices versus the needs for desktops and larger devices vary by too much, creating a comprehensive website will be too difficult and fulfilling the different needs of devices won’t happen effectively. Another issue is that websites that have a lot of embedded content to load won’t work well on mobile devices. Since responsive web design just resizes things to fit the dimensions of the display, it takes about the same amount of data to load the webpage on a smartphone as it does on a desktop. This can result in long load times and sometimes images and other embedded content won’t even load if the mobile connection isn’t good enough. Another issue is that responsive web design can take longer and require much more effort and intense coding to get the site to load properly on the different devices. This isn’t always the case, but it’s a precaution that must be acknowledged before jumping into a project where you plan on using responsive web design. Finally, responsive web design is essentially just a compromise between mobile devices and desktop devices- meaning you are expected to lose some functionality for each devices webpage. Making separate webpages for mobile and non-mobile devices makes it possible to specialize the webpage to each device, making it so content can specifically be tailored to specifications and uses. With this knowledge, we are ready to advance further and further into hopefully a completely immersive web experience.

The future holds so many possibilities. Consumers have been found to be more supportive of a brand if they’ve consumed content from it. Going beyond the simple viewing of an ad, interactive websites that engage consumers with their brand have seen returns on that investment by increasing loyalty and favor-ability. More and more companies can be expected to focus investment on customer experience in the future as a result of this.

Realizing virtual reality’s potential is on the horizon as well. Still, in its early adoption phase, VR technology can offer an immersive experience never perceived before. Developers are only beginning to comprehend the implications this could mean for web browsing. With motion capturing input, it won’t be long until fully interactive web pages begin enticing users to come stay awhile.

References for Responsive Web Development 

Responsive Web Development  – “Is Your Web Page Mobile Friendly?” Mobile-Friendly Test. Google, n.d. Web. 21 May 2017. <https://search.google.com/search-console/mobile-friendly?utm_source=mft&utm_medium=redirect&utm_campaign=mft-redirect>.

Responsive Web Development  – Leeson, Jamie. “Web Design Trends for 2017 – Future of Digital Web Design.” Zazzle Media. IPG Mediabrands, 2016. Web. 21 May 2017.

Responsive Web Development  – “Mobile Friendly Websites.” Google. Google, 8 May 2017. Web. 21 May 2017. <https://developers.google.com/webmasters/mobile-sites/>.

Responsive Web Development  – Schade, Amy. “Responsive Web Design (RWD) and User Experience.” Nielson Norman Group. Nielson Norman Group, 4 May 2014. Web. 21 May 2017.

Responsive Web Development  – Spillers, Frank. “30 UX Statistics You Should Not Ignore! [INFOGRAPHIC].” 30 UX Statistics You Should Not Ignore! Site Map, 18 Mar. 2015. Web. 21 May 2017.

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