Using responsive design to create future-ready experiences

I’m sure you’ve heard all the lovely statistics about how smartphone and tablet usage is skyrocketing, and how if you’re not going mobile, you’re not going anywhere.

There’s no denying that our web browsing habits have changed. Thinking beyond the desktop is crucial to the future success and relevancy of any business, not just the “young and hip” ones.

In order to provide the best online experience possible, you have to deliver context-driven content in ways that not only consider your audiences’ wants, but also their needs.

Contrary to what you may have heard, diving into building a spiffy mobile site (especially if it’s device-specific) is not always the way to go. In fact, after much deliberation amongst techies, designers, and developers everywhere, Google finally put the debate to rest (for now) by stating their stance on this issueinstead of creating a separate mobile site, use responsive design when it makes sense (depending on the site’s audience, purpose, budget, and timeline).

A more agile way to design websites

Responsive design is a technique used to create a website that automatically responds to the size of your screen. This means instead of creating different sites for a desktop, mobile phone, tablet, and who knows what else in the future, you create one magical web experience that adapts to fit whatever device it’s being displayed on. To see an example of what a responsive site looks like, check out a site we designed for voltaautomation.com, or one of our favorite design resources, Smashing Magazine. Once you’re there, resize your browser, or simply visit the site on a mobile device to see how it changes.

This fluid technique is valuable for a laundry list of reasons, but mainly because it’s nimble enough to provide the best experience possible for every reader. No itty bitty websites on your phone that you can’t read or click on. No presumptuous default mobile sites that get rid of all the information you actually need or guess at what you want to find. No worrying about wasting your money on a site that will be outdated and unusable faster than you can say “return on investment.”

This fluid technique is valuable because it’s nimble enough to provide the best experience possible for every reader.

If you’re a copywriter, web writer, or any other communication designer, you might wonder what responsive web design has to do with you. Well, this whole responsive school of thought goes way beyond development—it has to do with content and web writing, too. 

Writing is like designing with words

In order to be good at it, it’s important to understand the principles of design, and know how both visual and verbal design work together. The content and copy on your website needs to be just as fluid and adaptable as the structure that contains them. This takes careful consideration and planning.

After all, translating a desktop experience into a compact, mobile one is not a job for robots. Things like writing shorter copy and crafting concise messaging for smaller devices requires human insight and logic. The default rules of a mobile template can’t create context and priority, and they won’t know how to bring the most relevant and important information to the forefront. You and your readers must shape and guide this fluid experience.

Thinking about responsive content is just as important as thinking about responsive design because it all comes back to the same thing—providing an easier, more enjoyable experience for your customers and helping them find the information that’s most pertinent and useful to them.

Prepare for the future, instead of getting stuck in the past

That’s why we’ve made responsive design a part of our process, or at least a consideration to discuss whenever appropriate. In fact, our own site will be responsive soon enough. Even when clients don’t quite understand why responsive design is important at first, we consider it our responsibility to talk about it, help them stay ahead of the game, and provide even more value for their company and their customers.

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Using responsive design to create future-ready experiences
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Why creating a single, flexible, responsive website will better equip your site for the future of web experiences.
Shaina is our former Communication Director, and we're proud to have her as a Forty alum. Catch up with her current work