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Responsive Web Design – A Must For 2012 And Beyond?

The world of web design is ever changing, and along with technology, moves at an astounding pace.

Gone are the days of simple, low resolution CRT displays that were all around the same size. Through the 1990s and early 2000s this was never a problem, but the newfound breadth of devices that have the ability to connect to and display web pages is driving a whole new set of standards for web designers.

Currently, many are finding themselves in a ‘standards nightmare’, where a site has to work (and look good) on a range of displays from huge high definition monster-monitors like the Apple cinema display to the multitude of mobile devices of all shapes and sizes. However, what is now happening is commonly referred to as the HD revolution, whereby the quality of digital media is being increased. This began with the television industry in the middle of last decade, and has now developed to the point that it is almost standard practice. As the lines between traditional televisions, phones and computers become ever more blurred, the humble website has to be more flexible to keep up.

Several other problems go alongside the above in the modern, multi-device world. Interfaces are harder to make work on differing sized displays, requiring a lot more thought to adapt, and now Apple has upped the ante with the ‘Retina’ display, able to display images at a much higher resolution than before (up to the maximum number that the human retina can detect).

All of this meant that web standards needed to improve in order to help websites function. The term ‘responsive web design’ was coined by Ethan Marcotte in 2011 to describe this new functionality, whereby a website needed to take a fluid form, and resize itself to any display without a loss of quality. This has obviously taken a lot of work on the part of both standards and web designers, but with HTML5 and CSS3 this is now well on the way. A nice example is the website of Elliot Jay Stocks, conveniently showing both the full and mobile versions, dynamically resized:

So surely, with the future of the Internet looking more and more diverse, being displayed on more and more devices, websites that can cope with changes of this nature are the future? It seems to be the popular theory, and what is currently a trickle of sites made with RWD in mind is expected to be a torrent by the end of the year. There are even thoughts that the content displayed on a site should change with the display size, meaning you would get a more concise version of a site when browsing on a mobile, but how this will be done is yet to be established.
Is it time to consider implementing a responsive strategy for your site?


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