When I first started developing websites back in the mid to late 90s, we were focused on getting our websites to look their best in a singular browser. Depending on your preference it was either Netscape or Internet Explorer. If you were lucky, the site might look fine in both, but we all ran across the “this site optimized for *” message more times than you could ever count.
If you explain that to a younger web developer, they’ll typically giggle over that absurdity.
As time progressed, it became fundamental to ensure that your site works on many different browsers somewhat equally. We understand that everything will not be 100%, but in general if your customer visits your web presence, they will get what they came for.
Nowadays, the browser doesn’t matter as much as the device that your customers choose to connect with you does. Everyday a new device that connects people to the internet comes alive and as web developers we can never precisely predict which method of communication the customer will choose.
In the case of a bank; customers may use their tablet to check their accounts in the morning, use their phone to pay a bill in the middle of the day and reconcile their accounts with their laptop in the evening.
Each touchpoint comes from a different device with a different resolution, pixel density and interaction pattern. This is where responsive design can help us ensure that your customer is happy throughout every touchpoint with your organization.
The technology that you can use to utilize responsive design has been around for a while now. Much like AJAX which was introduced in IE6, but not realized fully until FireFox was released, responsive design is just coming into it’s own.
Media queries provide an underpinning technology required to make your designs responsive and they’ve been fairly well supported for quite some time. Other technologies, like fluid grids have been available to us since the dawn of CSS. We just never thought of implementing it that way until luminaries like Ethan Marcotte took a chance and disrupted traditional thinking.
Even though responsive design is all the rage and branded as an upgrade to your current web situation right now, it is in reality simply a best practice that any web developer should start thinking about prior to starting a project. While it’s still undergoing definition, in a year or so, we’ll look back on this monumental shift in thinking about the web and giggle over the absurdity that we only built web apps for the computer.