Responsive web design

why-do-you-need-responsive-web-design

Responsive web design (RWD) is a web design approach aimed at crafting sites to provide an optimal viewing experience—easy reading and navigation with a minimum of resizing, panning, and scrolling—across a wide range of devices (from desktop computer monitors to mobile phones). We explian, If you are in the business of building and designing websites, you cannot ignore the fact that many people are going to be visiting your sites on their smartphones and tablets.

The Web and the mobile browsers remain one of the top ways that users interact with websites and if they have trouble on their smartphone, there is a good chance they are not coming back.In light of this, responsive web design could be the best solution. It offers more than just a simple mobile template; instead, your entire site layout is designed to be flexible enough to fit into any possible screen resolution.

But there are some facts you should keep in mind.

Load Time and Performance

Responsive websites are nearly identical in download size regardless of device or screen resolutions. This means, viewing a responsive website on a smaller screen and displaying less visible content or smaller-sized images, doesn’t mean that the site will load faster.

Complexity

Mobile devices and browsers will have to deal with a lot of content. Sites should be careful to avoid loading unneeded CSS, running specific scripts and download large images.

A good implementation is possible, but it also means more complexity than developing a fixed width desktop site.

Time and Money

Higher level of complexity means also higher development cost.

The days where a designer’s work is done with a simple mock-up in Photoshop is gone.

Designers, developers and clients have to work together even closer. Design changes by designers or clients can lead to a large amount of development time. A good workflow can help keep costs low.

How Responsive Design Works

When I use the word “responsive” in terms of web design I mean that the entire layout responds based on the user’s screen resolution. Imagine this scenario: you’re reading a website on one tablet, then you switch to another device for one reason or another. The browser window is now re-sized. A responsive web design layout will feature schemes and a layout that gracefully breaks down and reinvents itself. From a usability perspective this is a brilliant technique.

Why Design for Mobile?

It has become evident that more users are going mobile, and not just for on-the-go web browsing either. Tablet PCs have begun to change in context when users are online in the classroom. Designing for mobile is certainly a requirement in modern day web standards. The only problem is choosing your method of development, and targeting your audience appropriately.

When you start coding for specific screen resolutions you end up with too many stylesheets to deal with. Media queries in CSS3 can be used to build iPhone-specific layouts for both portrait and landscape view. Since you can predetermine the pixel density it’s easy to revamp any HTML template for mobile.

Dynamic Image Scaling

Images are another important facet of practically every website. Mobile users may not be looking to stream videos, but photos are a whole different story. These are also the biggest culprits when it comes to layouts breaking out of the box model.

The standard rule for CSS is to apply a max-width property to all images. Since they’ll always be set at 100% you will never notice distortions.

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Custom CMS Development

why web designers and developers feel the need to create custom CMSs for sites that would be better off using an opensource CMS, like WordPress, Drupal or Joomla.

Although I could speculate about why I think developers create custom CMSs, it would be just that – speculation (and it would most likely just anger the designer/developer community). Instead, I asked a web designer I know to help me understand why custom CMSs are even considered anymore, given the easy access to numerous free alternatives. He helped me come up with the following list of reasons for a custom CMS:

  • Security through obscurity – hackers are writing scripts for popular CMSs, not custom CMSs.
  • Custom functionality – sometimes the purpose or function of a site is specialized enough that a custom CMS doesn’t address the site requirements in the most efficient manner.
  • Cleaner code – sometimes a site may be so simple and focused that you don’t need all the bells and whistles of WordPress or Drupal, and the code can be cleaner and less bloated.
  • Any other reasons? Let me know in the comments.

Those are all valid reasons, but to how many sites across the web would they apply? Not many, I think. The kinds of sites that I do see getting custom CMS treatment tend to be of the garden variety business web sites. You know the kind, less than 100 pages, typical online brochures with a home page, about us, products/services, contact, TOS/privacy policy page and not much more.

These are the sites that clearly do NOT need a custom CMS. Yet time and time again, I see business owners that don’t know any better, and they end up with a poorly performing site (especially from an SEO perspective). To give an example, one custom CMS I worked with didn’t even provide the ability to change title tags, meta descriptions, or URLs (all things that are easily done in WordPress, for example).

So, if you’re redesigning your site, here are some things to keep in mind if your design company is pushing a custom CMS:

  • They lock you in – anytime you need an update to the system, you have to go to them. Those updates can get pretty expensive (good for your design company, bad for you).
  • Bugs – if they’re building the CMS from scratch, there will be bugs. Are they willing to fix those? For free? For how long?
  • Fit and Finish – your brand new custom CMS will not be as polished in terms of look and feel or usability, because it hasn’t undergone multiple updates that pass through hundreds of developers with feedback from thousands.
  • Functionality – they may not include critical functionality (like the ability to write custom title tags and meta descriptions for each page, custom URLs, etc.). Even worse, they may charge you extra for this functionality and call it an “SEO package.” Don’t get me started on that one.
  • Documentation – there may not be any well written documentation on how to use it, make changes, etc.
  • Migration – once you realize how much better you would be with an opensource CMS, it can be a nightmare to migrate your site from a custom CMS. (see reason #1)

Here’s some more food for thought. WordPress has five lead developers, three designers, nine contributing developers, two documentation and support specialists, eight developer emeriti and countless testers. It was first released on May 27, 2003 and has since been updated 59 times, averaging a major release every six months or so. That’s nearly 7 ½ years of development (for free). Can your web developer offer that?

Why CMS?

 

  • A centralized repository that enables easy access, archiving and reuse of content
  • Streamlines content publishing process
  • Cost effective & efficient
  • Control access to data, based on user roles.
  • Secure, flexible and modular architecture
  • Easy to use interfaces
  • Removes dependence on hiring technical support

Additionally, if you need custom functionality for your web site, or you don’t want it to look like a cookie-cutter site, there are endless possibilities for customization. Instead of creating a custom CMS, your designer could create a custom theme, or your developer could write a custom plugin. But even that is often unnecessary when you consider the number of plugins already created for popular opensource CMSs:

  • WordPress: 11,704 plugins
  • Drupal: 6,739 modules
  • Joomla: 6,002 extensions

So, do you need a custom CMS? I think I answered that in the first sentence.