Should you design responsively?

8th January 2014

The web  undergoes many trends and the surge of mobile users has resulted in 'responsive design', where the website is built to support the varying resolutions and accessibility issues that mobiles and tablets introduce. But should you design for it?

Before the web evolved to be a mobile-heavy platform, you would typically design a website to fit within a standard monitor width and allow the user to scroll vertically. This would allow most of your content to be viewed on a computer. There are still many examples of this on websites today with a fixed width, centred on a page.

When mobiles first became widely used online, most websites still had fixed widths and would require zooming in to read text clearly. To combat this, website designs changed to cope with the drastically smaller screens by matching the website content with the screen - so the larger the screen, the more of the website would squeeze itself into before you had to scroll, all whilst keeping text visible.

However, with increasing screen sizes, resolutions and native apps, do you really need to design your website with such restrictions.

The devices to compensate for

The list below details the most popular devices used to connect online to view a website.

  • Mobile - typically small 4inch screens - can only fit a couple of paragraphs of text on screen (800 x 480).
  • Tablet - typically 7-10inch screens with a resolution of 1024 x 768
  • PC - typical resolution of 1280x1024 or higher
  • Console - awkward controls, will match the size of the TV, typically 720p (1280 x 720)

If we combine touch and mouse events then only mobiles require special attention if we design a website with at least 800px width. Depending on the website it may be that a mobile app is more suitable than altering the website significantly to cope with the device. If your website is mobile heavy, why not build a design specifically for mobile devices - the result will be more better than making a single responsive design. If you don't care much for mobile users then you just let them zoom like they had to when mobile devices first became used online.

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