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What is responsive web design?

BY DIGITECH - May 3, 2013
Web Design Austin

What Is Responsive Web DesignResponsive design is a result of the ever-changing online consumption habits of consumers – it provides a way for web pages to adjust based on the device format, switching from PC to tablet to mobile phone. Mobile phone and tablet viewers expect to receive the same web page content that they would on a desktop computer and may not always want to download a special app to do so. This presents a challenge for web page creators to keep up with the countless new resolutions and devices. For many websites, creating a unique website version for each new device and resolution would prove impractical and time consuming. Designers must now build for all screen formats in order for content and branding to meet its full potential and responsive design is the ticket to creating seamless transitions.

What is the functionality behind responsive design?

The functionality behind responsive design creates web pages that adjust the site layout based on the viewer’s screen dimensions. A responsive web design uses flexible images, flexible layouts and cascading style sheet (CSS3) media queries to determine which resolution of a device it needs to use.

Responsive design pages use grid coordinates for layout and proportions for images instead of challenging fixed-width parameters. Using proportions instead of fixed-width parameters and a flexible grid layout creates a fluid layout that will automatically resize to fit the dimensions of the display. Now we can easily adjust images and ensure that layouts amend to the device. It’s the perfect solution for devices that switch from portrait orientation to landscape in an instant or for when users switch from a desktop to an iPad.

Media queries are an essential component of responsive design. Without media queries, fluid layouts could not adapt to the endless number of screen sizes on every device. Fluid layouts sometimes appear unreadable on mobile devices and too stretched on desktop displays. Media queries enable us to adapt font to the specs of the device and specify when a certain style takes effect, crafting an enjoyable reading experience for viewers. With media queries, we can target device types and further inspect the physical characteristics of the device. CSS3 delivers expanded query capabilities that allow style sheets to align with a device’s display and serve a desktop, tablet or smartphone style sheet based on the query response.

This functionality means that instead of building a special mobile version of a website or an app (which often requires writing completely new code) developers can easily create multiple style sheets for the same web page. As a result, code is re-purposed instead of rewritten, which saves considerable time and money.

Is responsive design right for every site?

Ultimately, the benefits to responsive design are clear: You create a website one time in the beginning and it automatically adjusts to almost any screen type and size. It offers a simple way to reach multiple viewers across a variety of platforms and allows for a seamless, user-friendly experience.


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