Targeting multiple browser formats is a pretty common problem in this age of tablets, e-readers, smartphones and desktops. For a while, this basically entailed designing and building a different site for each device with a redirect script that would detect what it was being viewed on. This led to extremely bloated design and development costs, quite a lengthy wait, and revisions each time a new mobile format emerged (which seems like every day now).
With mobile browsing poised to surpass that of desktops within three years or so, there had to be a better method for developing for all these different resolutions, sizes, and endlessly shifting formats. There is a better way; one that requires only one set of code and is adaptable to the myriad of quickly emerging mobile formats: Responsive Web Design.
Responsive web design solves the issue of multiple widths and heights across a varied array of devices by using a fluid grid system. This creates a “liquid layout” that flexes with the width of the browser window rather than “fixed width” layout that is stuck at a certain number of pixels across.
It goes a bit further than this, though, with the individual elements of the site resizing and rearranging themselves as the screen gets smaller or larger. This prevents things from getting messy or illegible as a layout squeezes itself onto a much tighter screen.
First of all, although it may not be as easy to set up as individual subdomains targeting different devices (this basically means a different version of your site for each device), it will target a far broader spectrum of devices and respond to shifts in vertical or horizontal layout in real time.
Secondly, from an SEO standpoint, it really is better to have only one set of inbound links. If you set up a different subdomain for each device’s respectively sized site, these links will not all resolve to the same set of URLS, which means that your precious link juice is going to wind up fragmented between all of them. Google’s Pierre Far has also stated publicly in a recent SEO conference that they now prefer responsively designed sites.
Lastly, responsive design is now pervasive enough that mobile users have simply come to expect that their entire browsing experience will adapt itself to their devices. Via Google’s Mobile Ads Blog “ When they visited a mobile-friendly site, 74% of people say they’re more likely to return to that site in the future.67% of mobile users say that when they visit a mobile-friendly site, they’re more likely to buy a site’s product or service. “
Responsive Web Design may take more effort to develop, along with a bit of unconventional thinking during the design process, but the rewards are certainly worth it. Judging by the number of new responsive sites that are popping up all the time, it won’t be long before this method is considered standards. Don’t be left out in the cold by putting responsive web design off for the future when you could be reaping its benefits in the present.
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