Not quite sure what is a responsive web design? One way to keep your web visitors’ attention is to have the ability to display your web pages on multiple devices. The latest website design challenge is to provide content for different types of devices of varying sizes. You need to incorporate the capability to provide your visitors the same look and feel for your business whether they are visiting via a desktop, smartphone, tablet, smart TV or other device. Wearable devices and other new forms of devices will soon complement existing devices. You need to prepare to capture potential visitors’ attention on a multitude of screens. As consumers switch between devices, they are constantly connected to the web, and businesses that are poised to capture their attention during those periods of connectivity stand to benefit the most.

Mobile Users

Mobile users present particular interest since mobile use is the fastest growing industry sector with more than 1.5 billion subscribers already in existence. The small screen, touch screen interface and flexible orientation from portrait to landscape creates a different user experience that your site must be responsive to. To understand just what is a responsive web design, you will need to design your site to address the growing trend towards mobile device use as well as multiple device use.

For some users, particularly younger users, the mobile screen is the only screen they will use. However, there are numerous persons who use multiple screens. As such, the need to address mobile users cannot be misinterpreted as simply the need to create content for another type of screen. If you want to keep the attention of your desktop users, you need to be able to provide them with the same basic content and user experience on their mobile device as they have become accustomed to on their desktop. You need to create a site that has all of the existing capabilities while simplifying those complex elements of your site that only work well on desktop platforms.

There are three primary methods of implementing a multiscreen website that will address the functionality to support multiple types of devices. They include a responsive web design (responsive web design) techniques, dynamic serving techniques or building a fully separate mobile site. All three approaches have benefits and challenges that must be assessed. The best approach for your site is unique to your business and your brand.

So What is a Responsive Web Design Exactly?

responsive web design is a website design technique that uses the same HTML code base for all device platforms. responsive web design requires planning and expert development with multiple device specific strategies for displaying meaningful content. responsive web design techniques provide for content, for all of your sites, to be placed on the same domain or URL as your existing desktop site rather than a sub-domain or totally different domain. Using the same domain, all devices are able to read from the same code, and the content can be re-sized to fit the particular screen based on predefined parameters.

A single domain provides for a streamlined user experience where content is customized with device specific features. Content is more easily shared and linked. You can eliminate multiple redirects. This provides for increased performance while reducing load times. responsive web design includes eliminating features that are designed for faster and bigger screens. Your responsive web design should reduce the number of HTTP requests, Java Scripting and CSS that work well only for desktop users.

Some companies have already adopted responsive web design techniques to connect with mobile device users understanding what is a responsive web design. These companies indicate that they have experienced increases in site visitors, page visits, page durations and/or an increase in their sales volumes via mobile.

Dynamic Serving

Dynamic serving website design techniques also use a single domain for all devices. This technique provides for your web server to detect the type of device being used and then present web pages that are custom-designed for the detected device. Multiple custom pages result in multiple sets of the same content. This type of development is resource intensive if your company makes frequent site changes because you must reconfigure code for each specific device with each change. Your IT staff must be able to manage differing and complex sets of code. However, there are instances where you will only need to modify code for one type of screen without having to modify code for the other screens.

Dynamic serving provides for code to be optimized for faster loading for each type of device when understanding how to fully optimize for what is a responsive web design. Your IT team must be diligent in keeping content up-to-date such that your servers have up-to-date scripts that recognize and differentiate all available devices. Faulty device detection and recognition schemes will result in problems with sending optimized site content to the wrong device. For example, the server can presume portrait orientation for desktop users, but it must be able to account for the real-time landscape and portrait swap that mobile users are accustomed to.

Fully Separate Mobile Site

If you find the need to create a separate device specific site that differs from your other site or sites, you can accomplish that by redirecting users a specific device-optimized site. This is usually accomplished by creating a sub-domain, which can create problems with linking and sharing if redirects are not properly implemented.

Adopting the Strategy

You can use web analytics to analyze your site visitors’ behavior and determine how the behavior of your mobile or other device users differ from your desktop users when understanding what a responsive web design should be for your site. You need to consider the way mobile users make use of their devices, and take advantage of GPS, cloud data storage and other features that are fundamental to “smart” device use.

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About the Author: Jennifer Mathews