2013 -The Year of Responsive Web Design
Some trends come and go. Others gather momentum and become stronger with time.
I see 2013 as the year when different forces came together to make responsive web design the ideal choice for many business websites.
At one time a standalone mobile site - a second, simplified version of your main website, was a good choice. It was a practical solution given the network speeds and the browser and smartphone capabilities of the time.
12 to 18 months ago responsive web design, typified by fluid layouts with images and text which resize to match the window size, was a promising idea. You could combine a regular site and a standalone mobile site into a single website which could, in theory, work on any device. In practice however there were many drawbacks. During 2013 some key bits of the puzzle have come together to tip the balance in favour of responsive design over many of the other options.
Browsers have caught up. Essentially all modern browsers can now understand the CSS or code behind responsive design, and network speeds continue to improve. Faster connections mean you don't have to remove valuable content for mobile users.
As we've become a multi-screen world -- people use multiple devices, smartphones, tablets and laptops in different contexts -- having a single responsive site is a bonus because with responsive design it's much easier to present a consistent image. If visitors do a quick smartphone search while travelling for example, and later do more in-depth reading on a tablet or laptop, they are experiencing consistent design and content.
Maintaining a single responsive site is much easier than keeping both a desktop and standalone mobile site current, and having to guess the screensize of the next tablet or smartphone is no longer an issue in design decisions.
Google recently posted in the web developers section of their site that when possible, webmasters should "follow the industry best practice of using responsive web design, namely serving the same HTML for all devices". Independent software developers are now on board and there is a wide selection of responsive plugins and extensions.
It seems clear that responsive design will be here for the long term, and that it is now an optimal choice for many types of websites.