In the internet world of today, most people who have internet access use some sort of mobile device that allows them to connect to the internet on the go.
As a result, more and more people are doing their web surfing on a handheld device rather than a traditional desktop or laptop computer. This means that photography websites now need to become responsive to be able to serve a variety of different screen sizes and aspect ratios if photographers want the ability to reach their full potential viewing audience.
Responsive is the latest buzz word in the field of web design used to describe a website that can adjust its form to show the content of the site in a variety of formats in order to match the various screen sizes of mobile devices. A good responsive web design though also needs to look great on full sized desktop and laptop computer screens as well.
Many photography web sites I’ve seen may look fantastic on a desktop or laptop, but when you try surfing them on a tablet or smartphone some sites become almost impossible to navigate or to comfortably view the content of the site within the limited confines of a smaller mobile device screen.
I have also seen many photographers design sites that display full screen sized slide shows, have converted their text into fixed layouts which don’t permit text to adjust, and even some sites that employ navigation methods that are only mouse and not touchscreen friendly. These types of sites are now a big fail on the internet because if mobile devices can’t display the pictures or navigate through the site properly then you could have a big problem on the site visitor’s viewing end.
Plus, many older sites that were built using Adobe Flash design elements won’t run on mobile devices at all since Adobe made the firm decision a few years ago not to support any mobile devices with their Adobe Flash web browser plugins.
The other major shift is that 50% of all personal computer sales today are now tablet computers. That is a very big number and it means that the amount of desktop and laptop computers being used to access the internet is dropping fast. Then add to that the fact that the use of smartphones, which can also be used to surf the Internet, are rapidly growing in numbers too. As a result, we must embrace the mobile device audience and design responsive websites for the growing needs of the mobile internet world first in mind.
I personally just went through the exercise myself of completely redesigning and rebuilding my photography web site at www.marcschultz.com from the ground up so that it would be responsive.
I had decided there was no point trying to adapt my existing site so I created a new responsive site which allows anyone to view the site comfortably on any type of computer or portable mobile device.
The new design of the site detects the screen size of the browser being used and adjusts the site content automatically for both vertical and horizontal screens. It also adapts to various sized text areas on the different devices. Plus, all the navigation can now be done either by a mouse or by tapping on the touch screen of a mobile device. My site no longer uses any Adobe Flash elements either, only Java scripting, which also avoids problems. So all bases are covered. What I like most though is that the new site maintains the same look and feel of the design of the site across screens of all sizes.
Some people create two sites, one for desktops and laptops and then an alternative site which detects and loads just for mobile devices. Personally I don’t find this to be a good solution at all. By doing this you risk losing the quality of the user experience if the mobile version isn’t as well designed as the desktop version. Plus you want design continuity of your site across all web platforms which you may not be able to maintain if you design two separate sites. Lastly, if you are going to design an additional site for mobile devices then you might as well just redesign a new all-in-one responsive site which has the same look and feel for all versions of the site.
So what should you do though if your a photographer who now has a flashy web site which utilizes big, beautiful full screen sized images displayed either in sliders, galleries, or portfolios on the site?
Frankly I would say get rid of it completely and design a brand new site with mobile devices fully in mind. I say this because converting most existing site designs to one that is responsive will be extremely challenging if the site wasn’t designed for mobile devices to begin with. Plus chances are your current design might not look good on a mobile device once you try to adapt it down for smaller screen sizes. What you want is your viewers to be able to comfortably look at your content whether they are on only a small 3.5″ smartphone screen or a large 30″ desktop monitor. Yet you want to be able to deliver them the same feel for your photography work no matter what kind of equipment they are using to surf the web.
Overall, I think the sooner photographers embrace the new demands for mobile device friendly and responsive web designs, the better. The longer that time goes on, then the more that people will be viewing websites from mobile devices. So if your site is really sexy, but can’t be viewed properly on a smartphone, you might find that very soon a potential client on the go (who doesn’t have time to look at your website on a large desktop computer) may end up missing out on seeing your beautiful work completely. And I don’t think that is a chance anyone can afford to take.
As always, the info you put out is right on the button, yet about something I would otherwise miss altogether!
Very much appreciated:-)
Cheers for your good feedback Martin. Always appreciated.