Years ago we web designers had it easy. We designed websites to be viewed on big and clunky desktop computers. For the most part, these computers used a Windows platform and were navigated with a device called a "mouse". (Excuse me for a second I have to yell at some kids to get off of my lawn.)

Fast forward to present day when technology tumbles over us on a regular basis. Designers now must consider a plethora of hand-held devices and tablets in addition to gigantic monitors on modern desktops as well as TV screens. How does one provide an optimal viewing experience with all of these drastically different types of devices? Many of which require the use of your fingers to navigate? How do you possibly plan for the next big thing?

 In 2010, a gentlemen named Ethan Marcotte wrote an article for A List Apart in which he coins the phrase "Responsive Design" and describes a design strategy of design that allows for the "ebb and flow of things" (i.e.: future devices). Basically, a solution to serve up the same content, to the same web address but responding to the device browser to display an optimized layout for said device. The strategy includes designing and planning for mobile first and then progressively enhancing the content layout as the browser window gets bigger using media queries, flexible images, and fluid grids.

I've actually seen Ethan Marcotte speak about Responsive Design this past February. Immediately I began thinking about our clients. Is this something they will want? Is this something they will need? Is this the next big thing or just a flash in the pan solution? Responsive Design certainly seems practical for the long term but can you offer it as a practical business solution to clients that have had a successful customized desktop specific website for many years?

People in the web design industry have been aware of "Responsive Design" for a couple of years but now that is has trickled down to mainstream business, it has become buzzword of the day.

In response to "Responsive Design" our next series of posts will examine what Responsive Design means, how it might affect your business and how the definition of what it means to be responsive is already changing.

By Lynn Middleton, Design Manager

 Let’s get started with an overview of the benefits of a Responsive Design and the benefits of having a mobile website on a subdomain:

 The Benefits of Responsive Design: 

 1) Your company only has to update one url. 
For the most part, “Responsive Design” uses the web content you already have on your site so you only have to maintain, track and update one url.
 2) “Responsive Design” is device agnostic.
There are a number of tablet, smartphone and computer sizes. “Responsive Design is meant to ensure the user is provided an optimized layout for content from any device. “Rather than tailoring disconnected designs to each of an ever-increasing number of web devices, we can treat them as facets of the same experience”, Ethan Marcotte
 3) Your company only has to perform Link Building for one url. 
Having your website entirely on one url, ensures that links across the web are not being split between your desktop site and your mobile site.
 4) It’s possible that search engines will index more pages of your website.  
Each search engine has a maximum amount of time they will spend crawling a site so if your company only has one url, it is more likely that more pages will be indexed.

 Benefits of having a Separate Mobile Website: 

 1) Primary optimization of your website to take advantage of the unique user experience of a handheld mobile device. 
 Users browse through a mobile website differently than desktop users. A separate site gives you the ability utilize device features to enhance the experience and target specific content for it.
 2) In addition, your company can target a unique audience that is different from a traditional desktop audience. 
A responsive mobile site uses the content on your desktop website to bring in traffic. While a separate mobile site, gives you the ability to target online traffic that is specific to mobile.
 3) According to Prashant Puri, Co-Founder of (Pubcon 2012), Separate mobile sites are ranking higher in search results compared to responsive design. 
 4) Can be better to use a separate mobile site on robust sites or sites that have a subset of information that is different from the desktop site. 
A separate mobile site gives you the ability to have complete control of the mobile content without changing the content of the desktop site. This gives you the ability to serve different content or tailor your content for a mobile audience or create landing pages specific to your mobile ads.
 5) Page loading time is usually faster on a separate mobile site. 
Separate mobile sites are using images that are created for smaller screens decreasing the time it takes for the browser to download an image.
 6) Typically will cost the same or less to implement and has a faster production turn around.
Contrary to some beliefs, a separate mobile site can cost less than a mobile site that is created using responsive design.

 It is important to keep in mind when choosing your mobile site, that your decision is based on your return on investment.

 We look forward to getting the conversation going on what you have heard about Responsive Web Design and field any questions we can.

By Lauren Magyar, Online Marketing Consultant, also on Twitter @LaurenMagyar