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Why responsive design can be scarier than dating Taylor Swift

If you didn’t know already, your library’s site should be responsive. Having a separate mobile site is no longer good practice. Heck, even Google is penalizing non-responsive websites.   If your library’s website isn’t responsive already, you’re way, way behind the curve and you should feel horribly guilty about it.

That’s the message you’ve probably been getting for a while.

I’m not going to tell you that you don’t need to feel guilty or that it’s OK not to have a responsive website at this point.  Neither of those things would be true.  However, I am going to offer some empathy.  Let’s all get honest for a moment:  responsive design is harder.  It’s not just a different way of designing and thinking about web design, it can be a full-fledged bigger pain in the behind.   It’s a better way to do it, but that doesn’t mean that the learning curve isn’t going to give you a little gray hair, especially if it’s new territory for you.  Let’s examine some of the pain points.

  • You’re going to have to learn a CSS grid system.   To do responsive right, you’re probably going to need to learn to do layout with something like Bootstrap or Singularity (although there are many different systems; those are just two popular ones).  This kind of system allows for the fluidity needed to accommodate various devices sizes.
  • You’re going to have to learn about media queries.  These detect specific device sizes and allow you to provide alternate styling information, based on conditions. Typically, many responsive designs use both grid systems and media queries.
  • You’re going to have to get acquainted with viewports, screen densities and initial scale factors.  These have to do with just understanding the mobile environment and just how different it is from the desktop.  And, there are associated metatags you’re going to need.
  • Making images responsive isn’t simple and the methods are debated.  There’s no perfect one-size-fits-all solution (yet) and the problems are diverse.  Honestly, some days I just wish the Web was text-only again.

“Because it is hard, many responsive sites are very poor. They are led by a need to have their practices accepted by web celebrities and popular thinking rather than delivering a quality product. The bandwagon that everyone is jumping on is very ill-defined, and the results are less than satisfactory.”–Daniel Howells, Howell’s Studio

Responsive design is incredibly important, but it does mean learning and mastering new things.  Is that scarier than having songs written about you after you break up with Taylor?  Well, let’s hope not, or your library’s website is in trouble.

There are 2 comments

  1. We’ve been urging our website design clients to implement Responsive Design and finally they are beginning to “get it,” especially since it can affect Google search rankings. But you are so right – it’s complicated, expensive and painful.

  2. I agree completely: Responsive web design is complicated and necessary. But I don’t think it’s harder than maintaining two completely different versions of your site, and it’s so much better for users. It’s worth the effort!

    Libraries don’t just have to worry about their own sites — they need to be asking ILS vendors whether their public catalog interface is responsive. A quick search suggests the answer is almost always no!

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