First let’s start with a simple definition of what responsive design actually is. Without getting too technical, responsive design is a relatively new way of planning, designing, and developing a website so it automatically fits to the screen size of any media device. Whether for a laptop, cellphone, or tablet, responsive design will automatically adjust how the content, images, and/or videos on a webpage are displayed so the site is easily maneuverable.
No more screaming obscenities on the bus while pinching and swiping just to find the number for late-night pizza because the page won’t fit on your mobile screen!
Ordinarily, a website can take anywhere from 2 to 3 months to build. In the pharmaceutical industry, with all of its lovely regulatory processes, it can take ages. And according to the numbers, (an expected 657 million smart phones will be sold just in 2012) millions of people are browsing the Interwebs on the their mobile phones, which means as soon as your website has its basic design down, you have to start right back up and begin working on a mobile site in order to stay competitive in the digital world.
With responsive design, the website is built only once and is viewable on any digital gizmo you can get your hands on.
The Bad (but not really)
Before you get too excited and post comments about how wonderful this all sounds, be aware: Responsive design requires more upfront work than just building a website designed for a laptop or desktop. Usability experts (aka UXers, or Mind Mappers) have to spend additional time drawing out the different dimensions of each webpage before the designers and developers get their hands on the goods. Ideally, UXers, designers, and developers should all be working together during the construction of a responsive design project so at every turn, one team member can point out whether or not the proposed design or action is feasible.
However, this also presents the opportunity to create a more functional (and, in turn, profitable) website. With this methodical development style, more work is done upfront between all types of website engineers, creating the possibility for increased collective ingenuity.
Along with the potential to save time, there’s also the possibility of saving money with responsive design. If you plan on building a website and a mobile website, it may be in your best interest financially to consider building the website using responsive design. Instead of designing and developing two sites, you’re only creating one site. Instead of maintaining and hosting two sites (more costly than some might think), developers only have to manage/update one site.
Always build in Responsive Design?
Not necessarily. Some websites are specifically designed for desktop/tablet/laptop viewing only, as they should be. Take for instance the NIKEiD website. Amazing site but the mobile site has a completely different interface. The smaller mobile screen forces developers to organize all of the website functionality in finger-happy grids thus; granting easy access to mobile users who need answers on the go. The same can be said for the Priceline website. The mobile version is vastly different from the original version because the real estate on a mobile screen does not allow for calendars, apps, or advertisements.
Responsive design is a great, efficient way to increase the marketability of a website. In the healthcare industry with so many competing brands combined with the increased accessibility to the Web through multiple devices, responsive design is an innovative technique to design and develop websites that increase interaction among users that gives an edge up on the competition.