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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Use of mobile devices is increasing, and this means that the Internet is becoming more accessible to more people and in more places. This poses a dilemma for organizations: how to provide an enjoyable Internet experience for mobile device users without diverting resources from traditional websites aimed at users of larger screen devices, such as desktops and laptops. As Internet access become ubiquitous, organizations struggle with the best way to address all devices in a cost-effective manner. 

One Internet

Since Internet access through mobile devices such as smartphones is a more recent development than access through desktops, laptops, and netbooks, there is a tendency to use phrases like “the mobile web” to address the fact that desktop-optimized websites suffer when accessed from mobile devices. However, the phrase is misleading. There is only one Internet. The problem is not that smartphones and tablet computers created a new Internet, the problem is that traditional websites are difficult to navigate on a small screen.

Forking was the first response to this problem. With forking, an organization creates separate websites for big screens and small screens. Unfortunately, the data on actual Internet use show many different devices and many different screen sizes. It clearly isn't possible to create separate websites for every device with Internet access. The problem requires a scalable solution.

Responsive web design

Responsive web design (RWD) presents an strategy for providing a compelling Internet experience for users of all devices. RWD is supported by web browsers, it's based on HTML standards (CSS3), and is SEO-friendly. By creating different styles for different devices, RWD allows for the creation of one website that is adaptable to all devices. 
RWD thus allows organizations to allocate resources efficiently. Web designers only need develop and maintain one Internet experience that RWD optimizes for all devices.

Content creation

Right now, most content authors are not developers. For years, content management systems and other tools have allowed non-developers to create content. Will implementation of responsive web design hinder the work flow of websites? Not if done correctly. Developers must navigate the complexities of setting up the RWD strategy, and authors must understand that RWD websites must change appearances for each device. With the proper web content management strategies, templates, and established responsive rule sets, developers can use a RWD strategy while continuing to allow non-technical personnel to continue to create web content.

Disadvantage of responsive web design

While RWD is the best practice overall, there is one noticeable disadvantage. Providing one Internet experience for all devices treats all devices and all Internet users the same. However, an organization may wish to differentiate among different Internet users by differentiating among devices.
For example, a company that sells a platform-specific product, such as an iPhone app, may not care about optimizing the Internet experience of various Android phones. For such reasons, a organization may prefer native mobile apps for marketing certain products.

The future of mobile development

Responsive web design is the future of mobile development because it provides a scalable strategy to optimize websites for all devises on the market, and even for devices which have yet to be created. Key mobile tools such as building, debugging, testing, deploying, and optimization must adapt to utilize responsive web design while allowing non-developers to continue to create content.

Author Bio:

Derek Whitney works for Hudson Horizons, an integrated web agency. He keeps himself by blogging, creating different types of content, and optimizing sites.

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