The responsive web has become the great headache for the latest generation of web designers. The appeal of a ‘mobile-ready’ site has now become a minimum expectation from the massive uptake of smartphone users, with the assumption that all sites will function across all screen sizes and devices.
This new era of web has opened up a minutiae of design and UX sub-debates; do you hide or restrict content? which screen sizes do you target? How may breakpoints will suffice? Everyone has a different conclusion.
One commonly accepted standard is using a responsive CSS column-based grid. Using one of the many templates designers can build their content into modular content blocks which will all fall in line with less screen width. Some designers build for mobile and add adjustments for wider screens, or alternatively design for desktop and scale back design for mobile.
Whilst this in itself sets a new method that all designers are almost slavishly forced to conform to, it also requires a set of other considerations for the small screen user. There are responsive fonts to consider, responsive image behaviors, even responsive icons if you want to go that far. It ultimately becomes a question of your likely user and how you want user to interact with the content and functionality.
And there are issues here too. Have you ever had this happen – you want to view two sites at once so shrink the width of two browser windows by half, only to see the website transform and your content vanish? Targeting by width alone can bring damaging UI too.
Ignore it altogther?
This was once the concern of devices rather than site designers. The creators of operating systems for tablets and mobiles created the ability to pinch-zoom content and scan around a much larger website width. This can be irritating at times, but the user quickly grasps the concept and can find information intuitively. Now a user of a site must learn the layout of the standard site, then learn a new minimal version with content that folds and overlaps for simplicity. This looks ace, and keeps the design clean and navigable, but there is still an additional hurdle to each section.
Find your ideal solution
At SSA our main development projects involve content heavy data-management software, so the design is always centered around the desktop view. Our common debate on each project is the extent to which mobile users can access and use the application similar to a regular large screen user. Users should always be able to access the site and find information, but commonly complex features require a review of their benefits to mobile users.
The importance is not in adopting a particular setup exclusively, but in finding the ideal solution to your particular site’s requirements.
Find out more about SSA’s design and build process on our site, or contact us in the comments below.