Tim Igoe's Web Design, Development and Hosting Blog

Responsive Design: A step too far?

Posted on by Tim Igoe

2012 has definitely been the year where mobile and tablets devices have really taken off, this has meant web developers and designers have had to think differently about how they design and create their sites.  Going back a bit, to have a mobile friendly version of a site was a separate system, usually pulling in the same data but displaying it differently. From a development point of view, it can cause problems by having double the systems to maintain and as such another solution was needed.

BBC Responsive Design

BBC Responsive Design

Step in CSS3 and Media Queries, they are a good solution to create multiple views from one set of data and back end systems. This is something that is only just becoming supported by most browsers (though with a lot of users still on old ones, support isn’t complete for all users).

So far, so good,  having a different (but fitting) design or view for mobile or tablet devices sounds like a good idea, and actually is. On 3g, downloading the entire image set for a normal site isn’t a good plan, it’ll take the user too long and potentially cost them a fortune in bandwidth.

How this gets implemented is half the issue that exists currently with “Responsive Design”, I personally am seeing more and more sites that I look at and am actually put off using because of their newest, responsive designs – the designs that are built to scale based on screen resolution – are leading me on my old ish (1280×768) laptop to see sites that are no longer usable.

Multiple column layouts where content shifts based on screen resolution is one thing, but there are some quite hard to read examples appearing where the flow has gone totally. Take the new Mashable design as an example, there are now 3 columns of data, there is no nice way to read whats on screen and scroll to the next bit. On a mobile, it works perfectly and scrolls well, on a PC, it needs work.

Mashable Responsive Design

Mashable Responsive Design

Overall, I think responsive design is a brilliant answer to a growing issue, however it still needs work as an idea.

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