In my twitter stream this morning I found a link to a page full of examples of responsive design (http://thenextweb.com/dd/2012/02/01/10-beautiful-examples-of-responsive-web-design/)
While these are undoubtedly beautiful and well-crafted examples of responsive design, I’m not sure how relevant the ‘responsiveness’ is to each site’s audience.
Curiously, as available bandwidth increases for most users, the amount of bandwidth we will have available to us as developers is likely to decrease due to the consumption of multiple data streams.
Having the techniques and tools to create flexible responsive sites at our disposal is great but they also go a little way to dictating how a site is designed and built. For example, in order to flex between vertical, horizontal and drop-down, navigation must be built in a particular way and appear in a specific place within the HTML – we cannot throw it around the page from left to right or up and down without creating extremely fragile code (something no developer should be doing).
As with any new technique or tool we need to exercise restraint regarding when we use it. From animated GIFs and background music to CSS3 transitions we need to exercise a little care about what we are making our users download in order to use our site. We need to exercise a little more thought about whether our users are going to need that extra code we’ve just added to make the site responsive or whether it might create a better experience for our users if we take a more focused approach and concentrate on getting just one or two screens right.
This isn’t about your whole site either – it could be pages within your site that only ever get used in a mobile context, or a web app that is only ever used via desktop machines.
It might be great to be able to say that your site is totally responsive but who will that impress other than other developers? If your users only ever use your site in one particular format then all of those extras are just going to get in the way.