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Responsive Website Design and the Mobile First Strategy

by Eric Colantropo

Since the release of the first iPhone in 2007, smartphones and tablets have gained so much popularity that by 2014, mobile usage should takeover desktop internet usage1. Everyday more consumers are accessing websites on these devices, meaning websites must be optimized for their small screens to create a seamless and positive user experience. If a website doesn’t scale properly to create a user-friendly browsing experience, 46% of mobile users say they are unlikely to return to a website they had trouble accessing from their phone2. This type of website scalability for small screens is a characteristic of a responsive website. A responsive website has the ability re-arrange and scale the content and graphics in order to fit to any smartphone or tablet’s screen size.

Good responsive design is achieved with the mobile-first philosophy in mind, meaning that all elements on the page have been optimized for mobile viewing. Prior to responsive web design, companies would have to design and develop an entirely separate mobile website. Most often, the mobile site would be a trimmed down version of the desktop-based website. A separate mobile website is typically inconvenient for the user because in some cases the information that they are seeking is not available on the mobile website.

In the early stages of the website planning process, designers and developers should strategize about how to deliver content starting at the smallest screen size and moving up from there. Because smartphones and tablets have limited screen real-estate, this way of thinking can be extremely helpful in order to identify the core and most essential components of a website. The mobile-first philosophy paired with responsive web design techniques allows the full un-edited version of the website to be available for all users, regardless of the device they are using at the time. This design technique is especially important for any ecommerce websites to provide an easy-to-use mobile commerce or “mcommerce” purchasing experience. As small screen devices continue to dominate and as they begin to overtake web browsing traffic, these design techniques are the new normal and should be considered during the very beginning of the web development and planning process in order for a website to be successful.

1 Source: http://tag.microsoft.com/community/blog/t/the_growth_of_mobile_marketing_and_tagging.aspx

2 Source: Tip #46: http://www.vocus.com/blog/50-mobile-search-stats-and-why-you-should-care/

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