“Day by day, the number of devices, platforms, and browsers that need to work with your site grows. Responsive web design represents a fundamental shift in how we’ll build websites for the decade to come.”
– Jeffrey Veen
The term “responsive web design” – also known as RWD – is a relatively new term coined by former Vermonter, and current Bostonian, Ethan Marcotte in a May 2010 article in the magazine, A List Apart. Responsive web design is a fundamental change in the way web designers create websites. Instead of being designed and built for a set-width screen, a responsive website is designed to adapt to the width and capabilities of the device on which it’s viewed.
In the past, virtually all websites were designed to work well on a typical desktop or laptop PC, but were often difficult to see and navigate on a mobile phone. The solution was to develop a separate website or application designed to work on smaller screens. This was more expensive and harder to maintain than having just one site for all visitors, but it worked well for many large retailers. In 2011, Amazon.com hit $2 billion in sales through smartphones and tablets worldwide; that was up 100% from $1 billion in 2010.
Small-scale retailers found it less cost-effective to build a completely different website to accommodate what was still a relatively small amount of mobile traffic. But, times are rapidly changing, and now even the smallest companies can benefit from jumping on the responsive bandwagon.
Web surfers shifting toward mobile devices
While sales of mobile devices were growing exponentially, 2012 was the first year since 2001 that showed a decrease in the number of PCs sold. Not coincidentally, roughly 120 million tablets were sold in 2012 – compared to 66 million in 2011 – with worldwide sales estimated to reach nearly 370 million units by 2016!
Mobile web surfers: A whole new class of customers!
• 87% of American adults have a cell phone
• 45% of American adults have smartphones (107 million people!)
• 26% of American adults own an e-reader
• 31% of American adults own a tablet computer
• 31% of mobile web-capable phone owners use them as their primary means to access the Internet.
• 1+ billion smartphones in the world
• Mobile internet usage is projected to overtake desktop internet usage by 2014
• 46% of consumers are unlikely to return to a mobile site if it didn’t work properly during their last visit.
• 66% of those ages 18-29 own smartphones
• 68% of those living in households earning $75,000 also own them
• In the U.S. 25% of internet users are mobile only
Myths about responsive web design
• It’s a pared-down, boring experience compared to a website viewed on a desktop computer
• Mobile web development is too expensive for small and medium-sized businesses
Mobile websites can have most, if not all, of the bells and whistles of their desktop counterparts. RWD prices are comparable to traditional websites, but compare even more favorably when the additional revenue from the improved reach into the mobile market is taken into account. They can be designed to be just as impressive as their desktop counterparts, and often far more impressive on smaller screens.
Some examples of excellent responsive websites
There are some amazing responsive websites out there, and more being built everyday. Take a look at some of the best in the list below. Adjust the size of your browser window to see how these websites adapt.
Exciting responsive websites in the works at Stride – stay tuned!
• Sweetwaters American Bistro
• Chittenden County Transportation Authority (CCTA)
• Vermont Community Garden Network
• Maine Integrative Healing
• Sheehey Furlong & Behm
• Vermont Oxford Network