Perhaps the title of this article is a bit of an overstatement, but it does seem that Web designers and clients are starting to appreciate the importance of making sure that Web pages and emails can be read on many different devices.
I’d like to give credit for this development to the creation of HTML5, but many of the tools for doing responsive design have been around for over a decade. What has changed, however, is that a significant percentage of people are using the Web with mobile devices and people are taking note of how broken the majority of Web sites are when viewed on a smart phone.
Traditional designers, and those who are accustomed to print design, have a hard time with responsive design. The main reason is that it requires fluidity, which limits the ability to actually say for sure that any element of the Web page can appear in any particular spot. In other words, designing a Web page that responds to the size of the device it’s being viewed on means that the designer must give up control over basic design elements like font size, page width, and layout.
Responsive design is challenging, but systems and techniques have been created for doing it well. Responsive design may not look like the type of Web design you’re used to, and it may look awkward on some sizes of devices, but it’s much more usable. A great example of a responsive Web site is The Boston Globe’s Web site (www.bostonglobe.com).
Another approach to supporting mobile devices, which allows for more rigidity and certainty in the placement of elements, is adaptive design. In adaptive design, the designer essentially creates three or four separate versions of the site: from the full-width size down to the mobile phone size. Our own site, www.minnick.com, is an example of adaptive design. To see it in action, go to www.minnick.com and change the size of your browser window. As it gets smaller, you’ll see the site design change three times.