Responsive web design is a technique using CSS media queries to adapt the CSS on a website based on the width of the viewport. Now, some websites have embraced responsive design to fantastic effect. The Boston Globe is one of the best. The site displays all content in all view modes, fitting neatly to the size of the browser window. Resize even your desktop browser and watch the website adapt.
|Responsive design at its best, the|
Boston Globe even supports
the equivalent of tablet screens.
Unfortunately, the Boston Globe is somewhat unique in how well the technique actually works. Being a newspaper, the website is naturally text heavy. They can squeeze by with just one dominant image on the home page, and the rest being mobile-friendly sizes even on desktops. Although it is possible to make other types of websites scale, I often found responsive websites to exhibit the same problem I was trying to avoid in the first place; slow load times and poor performance.
|A refresh of the original design by another company,|
the updated website by Omni Impact now presents
equivalent content instead of a limited mobile website.
To give you a quick summary, the three major methods of creating mobile websites are dedicated mobile sites, responsive design, or a hybrid method, which often utilizes server-side browser detection. Dedicated mobile websites require a copy of the original data, can cause problems for search engine optimization if used incorrectly, often have difficulty redirecting users to the appropriate content on the other site, but they load quickly and can have highly tailored user interfaces. Responsive websites are often slow to load, difficult to make properly, and you are limited by what you can do with CSS, for example, adding or removing elements can be done, but requires all the elements to be loaded anyway, increasing load times. Responsive design also offers no option for the user to choose their preferred website experience. Hybrid design delivers a mobile-optimized version of the websites code, but utilizing browser detection instead of a different URL. When done properly, hybrid mobile website design provides the quick loading of a dedicated mobile site, without the data duplication or SEO nightmares. A good example of how hybrid design can take advantage of server side processing is presenting an alternate footer, as shown in the above screen shot. Note that on the mobile version, a fixed footer provides quick access links ( tel: and mailto: ) that will open the appropriate app on the user's phone. This code is used only when in mobile mode. On the other hand, the additional images used in the header are blocked on the mobile version, rendering the header with only text to speed load time.
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