Responsive web design – The difficulties

Responsive web design seems to be the holy grail of the web design industry and the moment but it’s not all plain sailing. Responsive web design can present a whole new array of issues and problems for the novice (and advanced!) web designer and isn’t necessarily the easy way to device independent web design nirvana.

What is responsive web design?

Responsive web design (RWD) is when we build a website for our clients that will be viewable on all devices from mobile to desktop without having to provide a separate site or different content for each device. We display the same website for all devices but styled differently to make the most of the screen space on each device.

What are the problems?

Responsive web design isn’t an easy fix for a tricky problem. It’s an advanced solution to a new problem that seems to have taken off in the industry. There are alternatives to responsive web design but responsive web design seems to have really caught on. It’s popular and get’s used a lot, clients like the buzz word and it seems like the ideal solution. But, there are issues. Designing a responsive web design for multiple devices means you have to test on those devices. As if testing in multiple versions of IE and other browsers wasn’t tricky enough we know have to test in multiple mobile browsers on multiple devices. Nobody can own all the devices we need to test on so we have to use a best guess approach about what we know about device screen sizes. There are online tools to help with testing and virtual device browsers which we need to use to make sure our responsive web designs work correctly on phones we may not have physical versions of.

Getting the screen breakpoints right for every device screen size can also be very difficult, especially if you want to target a lot of breakpoints and device screen sizes. There are good lists around of breakpoints but they all seem slightly different, there is no standard set as yet.

Pixel density is also another issue. The retina screen on the iPhone first brought us the problem of viewing normal web graphics on a HD screen and so we know can supply a different set of graphic assets just for those screens which now include the new iPhone 5 , the iPad and the new retina laptops.

As the device list grows to include things like widescreen TV’s (how long before we have browsers on fridges, etc) so does the difficulty in creating a responsive website design that works on EVERY device.

Responsive web design isn’t for every project and can increase the costs so talk to kc web design kent before you start your next responsive web design project. We can help define what you need and whether you need it at all.


Paul Ledbrook

If you have a new project or existing website that needs improvement, email us or call 0845 3631162 , we’d love to hear from you.

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