The internet has transformed our lives beyond imagination. The rapid growth of technology, proliferation in the use of web and emergence of gadgets in all sizes and shapes has resulted in complex challenges for the businesses to cope with. How does one provide a seamless experience to users across screen sizes, gadgets and geographies?
The emerging design philosophy of Responsive Design can provide a solution to some of the concerns currently being faced by marketers. With Responsive Design, businesses can now deliver a brilliant, optimised internet experience regardless of the size of the screen or the nature of the device. With this philosophy, the same design can deliver content across devices like smartphones, TVs, tablets or laptops. Responsive Design lets one shape the content effectively and easily.
However, Responsive Design is often mistaken as a cost-saving initiative or optimisation of websites to fit different screen sizes. Responsive Design must be looked at from the perspective of creating an entire architecture and not just as a method to adopt a website to different screen sizes. There needs to be a greater degree of strategic planning keeping in mind trends that could impact the web viewing experience over the next few years. For instance, one needs to define breakpoints or the range of device categories that must be considered while planning.
With the evolving technology world, the need to watch out for new devices is aggravated by sudden game-changing introductions in the landscape. For example, before the iPad, tablet as a category was virtually non-existent. Therefore, web designers must work in sync with expected consumer technology product line-up to anticipate the changes to the way the internet would be consumed in future.
The advantages of Responsive Design are there for all to see, but it should be adopted only after a complete analysis of the marketer's needs. There might be situations where you need to customise content on different platforms as per the consumption pattern of users. Every digital touch point may be serving a different need of the consumer and marketers need to be cognizant of that fact while adopting Responsive Design approach. For example, an airline site helps one in finding offers and holiday packages in the 'big browser' version of the site, whereas the primary focus of the same site on mobile is flying-related, such as Web Checkin. You can see the value of context of use with this example. Therefore, it is not that Responsive Design is an answer to all multichannel design strategies of today.
The need of the hour is to look for innovative ways out, depending on the brand's and consumers' needs. At times, Responsive Design may be required to serve just a subset of the content available on full browser versions. Also, a mobile handset and a tablet operate in completely different contexts and scenarios. The most important point here is to realise that the idea does not boil down to just fitting a website on a mobile screen. It is about making sure that all the functions are available on mobile to suit the needs of all forms of smartphones and feature phones. Brands must ensure that Responsive Design truly fits business needs and user needs.
Whether the decision is in favour of or against Responsive Design, it is important to remember that it must be taken from a strategic standpoint and not a tactical one. It is almost like choosing future store locations - it is really that far reaching.
Given the benefits it gives, it is certain that Responsive Design is here to stay and as more standards and more devices emerge, the need for Responsive Design will only continue to grow.
The author is creative director & experience design lead, India, SapientNitro.