Welcome to the brand-new MCNInteractive.com! This is an incredibly exciting time for our company not just in terms of rebranding and growth, but in terms of new technology as well. Back in November of last year, I wrote an article on the rapid rise of ‘mobile’ devices (phones, tablets) and the effect on the landscape of the web industry. The short version: mobile strategy is no longer an added perk; it is now an integral part of any web strategy.
We at MCN have had existing options for serving this mobile market for awhile now via native apps and mobile websites, but each of these has had distinct shortcomings. Native apps can be incredibly useful, but are often costly and typically serve a specific purpose separate from your website. While mobile websites (e.g., m.yoursite.com) fill that gap, they can be confusing and frustrating for users and tend to split your codebase into two (or more) separate areas, which is more costly both in build and maintenance.
This is where Responsive Web Design (RWD) comes in. RWD is an approach that takes the same codebase for your website and merely changes the aesthetics to meet the needs of your users, regardless of the device. Thus, all devices - iPhone, Android phones/tablets, iPad, Kindle, desktops, laptops, notebooks, [insert unknown device that is not out yet that will be all the rage next month] - will get an experience catered specifically to their dimensions. The design itself is not magically aware of the specs of each device, but rather it is built using a flexible layout (think percentages, not pixels) and simply responds to width, not specific device awareness. This is one of the major shortcomings of mobile websites - they rely on a string sent from the device to know what website to serve the user. Because of this, mobile sites cater to specific devices and only those devices. Consequently, the explosion of new devices on the marketplace over the past fews years has left this already fragile system downright crippled. This is one of the many reasons RWD has gained traction so quickly across industries (enterprise, journalism, universities, non-profit). It’s future-proof.
So what exactly does RWD mean for you? I am excited about it because not only does it solve a technical problem, but it solves a financial one as well. For many folks, a mobile strategy has always been a line-item nightmare. Do you want a mobile app? No problem; it’ll be $X. Do you want to also have a mobile website? That will be $X and $X/month for hosting. Oh, you want that website to be different for iPad, etc? Sure, that will be another $X. Isn’t it [not] funny how this financial burden is as much of a headache as the technical one? Thankfully, the “mobile web” is no longer a line-item. In fact, there is no mobile web. There is just the web, and it is changing shape. Does RWD require more resources and time to accomplish? Of course, but it is a single, simple solution for a problem that continues to grow in variety and complexity. RWD makes the problem cheaper to solve and cheaper to maintain. Most importantly, it is a more natural solution for the problem at hand.
So without further ado, welcome to the new, responsive MCNInteractive.com! If you’re on a desktop/laptop, you can just resize your browser window to see RWD in action. This will show you how the website responds to the width of the viewing screen (note: Internet Explorer 8 and older only get the desktop version). Or better yet, open it up on your tablet or mobile phone!
Note: There is no single silver-bullet approach for all web strategies. What is most important is choosing the right technology based on your goals. RWD is only one approach, but it is an exciting solution for many cases. If you have questions about your strategy or business needs, please talk to us about what options are available to help you accomplish your goals.
If you want to see other responsive designs in action, this is an excellent gallery: http://mediaqueri.es