RWD and Mobile – One Site To Rule Them All!

I went to a seminar on Responsive Web Design last night, hosted by DCWW, and presented by Clarissa Peterson. You’re probably thinking what I did when I first heard the term,”Responsive what?” So here goes…

In short – and keep in mind I’m nearly always reliably the sole non/accidental techie in the room – RWD is what will free your website design and interactivity from the restraints of one screen and one canvas. No more building a separate mobile website, and yet another for the iPad, and who knows whatever is next! You build ONE website in RWD, which enables anyone, anywhere to use it on any screen they have access to, without have to pinch, squinch, or enlarge the screen. One site to rule them all!

The prime example last night was The Boston Globe. (Also, People magazine, but um, I don’t watch much TV these days and had NO earthly clue who some of these people in the news were, but hey, the Globe’s headlines made sense! Ergo…) If you go to the Globe’s site and shrink or expand it, you’ll notice the content doesn’t get smaller. It just vertically repositions everything so you can still read everything without having to squint.

Boston Globe Screen Shot Full Width

Boston Globe Screen Shot Full Width


Boston Globe With RWD

Boston Globe With Responsive Web Design – Content Still Intact.

Washington Post - Without RWD, Content Cuts Off

Washington Post – No RWD, Content Cuts Off

See what I mean? One site to rule them all!

Bottom line, if you’re a communications professional, designer, developer, website anyperson, RWD is worth reading up on and tracking. Because it’s not just access and user experience that changes with RWD. Content strategy, design processes, and workflow change as well.

If you want to know more, the book of the moment for RWD seems to be Ethan Marcotte’s, and a website worth checking out is A List Apart. And yes, read up on it. Because when asked, Peterson says she thinks it might be five years before RWD is standard for web design. My translations: it’ll be 18 months before RWD is what everyone will be talking about in the field, and shortly thereafter, a site without it might as well have a tiled or snowing background for all that it will attract an audience. And the ramifications are huge, because RWD takes the web experience even farther away from a desktop. And that’s key. Because already, mobile gets bigger by the day.

As with QR codes, those of us with reliable electricity and wired connections – first world, affluent, older (and yes, I count myself in this last category) – are being rapidly outnumbered by those who approach the web entirely through a handheld mobile device. All those millions who went without power in India last month, including those whose power connections have always been rickety? Mobile phones, which are far more reliable than anything hooked up to the phone or electrical grid. Millions more in Africa? Mobile phones, which have made the continent the next front of the mobile and online banking revolution. Anyone in the US who is in high school or college, or looking to cut the cable cord, and can afford mobile or prefers a tablet to a more expensive laptop? I rest my case. Increasingly, all those people now look at your website on a small screen first – if it doesn’t work there, chances are they may simply never come back. And that’s a problem that’s just going to get bigger.

Intimidating and tedious though this may sound, the alternative is worse. Technology just keeps marching, and exhausting as it may be, we can either love it, learn it, or get left behind. Think I’m overdoing it? Take a look at this prescient PSA which featured fifth-graders in 1995.

The money quote is clearly this one: “By the time we’re in college,” the Internet will be our telephone, television, shopping center, and workplace.”

By the way, those kids are now roughly 27. And they’re largely mobile.

Time to move RWD to the top of the must-read list.