A responsive website has elements and managing properties that adjust it to fit onto different screens. Some responsive parameters can go so far as to include operating systems, browsers, and other qualities that a user may have that is unique to him or her. The idea is to create a site that can evolve along with the potential users that could be viewing your site, and that may seem like a tall order at first, but there are many tools that can make the process easier on your work flow. Add ons and plugins for WordPress, for example, can give you many different vectors of attack to get the right typography, the right image sizes, and much more.
There are some areas of responsive design that have gone neglected, however, and they have to do with the actual mobile user’s experience. It isn’t enough to just scale everything up or down according to the incoming information you get from users. Your desktop site may be great for desktop users, but that user interface might not be ideal for touchscreens and cramped screens. If you’re neglecting the actual UI aspect of your responsive design, you’re not getting the big picture.
Along Comes Adaptive
Adaptive designs have a lot in common with responsive designs, but they vary in some key areas, which include your ability to adapt the user interface to your mobile users. For example, you may not actually need a certain style of drop down or expanding menu for your desktop users, but that app-like experience may be necessary with the amount of space a mobile user has. If you want to get their attention and engage your visitors, you need to get as close as you can to what they expect from a mobile application experience.
- Functionality matters. Not only is it more engaging to have a site that is unique functional for mobile devices in a way that mobile users can appreciate, but it gets them from their start to their finish quickly. Users appreciate being able to check in on new promotions or blog posts, for example, without having to scroll or zoom where it’s unnecessary.
- Speed matters. Sites that do away with desktop elements that mobile users either can’t or won’t use can also load more quickly on mobile devices. It’s an easier task for your own servers, and a quicker experience for a mobile device user. It also means that they will, again, be able to make their purchase more quickly. That makes them more likely to do business with you.
- If in doubt, consult. Mobile site designers have plenty of great ideas on the right UI touches and considerations that you need to be making if you want to get a really adaptive, really functional site for your audience. Take their experience and advice seriously. Even a brief critique of your responsive site experience could be enlightening as you move forward with improvements.