Responsive: Beyond the Surface

Responsive design seems to be the latest online "rage" and by now you’ve likely heard the term.

What does responsive really mean and do we fully understand what goes behind it? Is there right or wrong content for responsive design?

These are just a few questions to ask yourself before going responsive. Responsive design means that all your content is available on all devices with varying screen sizes. All of this is just what you see on the surface or the front end of the website. Is a responsive site just a flexible design to squish your content into a bunch of different screen sizes? It has to be more than just that, right?

Think for a moment about what it means to be responsive and what it means to your consumers.

In this blog post, I want you to take some time and think about the idea of valuable responsive content.

What is responsive content?
Responsive content is not some new way of building a site, but rather a deeper philosophy of what Responsive Web Design really means. Let’s examine some example content. We have some description text, a main image, a bunch of additional images that do not exactly relate to the text and a table of data that is filled just to the breaking point. While this may work fine on a large screen such as a desktop or a laptop, it won’t be ideal for smaller screens.

As a consumer on the site, what type of content would you want shown? If you said the text and the data, you are on the right path. However, that table of data is massive on a large screen and it would be virtually impossible to use it on a cellphone. The main point is this:  make your site user-friendly by removing any tables of data you may have.

The question we must ask ourselves at this point is, "how is this data being used, and is there a better way to display it?"

What I am presenting here is a thought process that needs to happen with any and all content that is utilized on a site, especially on a responsive site. We need to focus on the end-user, the consumer of that content, and how they will be using it. Previously content was often added to pages of a site, such as a large table of data, without thinking too much into how it will be used. Often, content can be organized or structured differently and it will be better suited for all displays. Perhaps after analyzing the content it all may not be needed in its entirety in the first place. Many times we hear, "we can just hide that part on smaller devices" when first looking at content issues such as this. If the first thought is, "we can hide that" then the second should be "do we even need it?" If that content can be so easily hidden from view, then perhaps the content does not serve any value in the first place.

What if I can’t change the content?
There will be times when the content must be displayed in a certain way and it simply can’t be optimized for a smaller screen experience. Using that table of data example again, if it was not able to be sorted differently then it would need to maintain its’ existing structure. For that specific example, it could be set to scroll side to side (and possible vertically as needed) in order to not alter its’ display but also prevent it from breaking the rest of the page. Nothing can be 100% perfect, so concessions can and should be made. However, if you keep thinking mobile-up and user-first regarding your content, you will be better able to serve your end users.

Ultimately, the consumer should enjoy using your site. They should be able to quickly reach the content they are seeking and not be deterred by unnecessary distractions with unnecessary content. The more these goals are set and reached, the better the user experience will be!

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