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If I ask you how you access the web these days, I bet your answer will be something like "with my phone" or "with my tablet" before it is "on my desktop computer." With the introduction of smartphones and tablets, the way people visit and interact with the web has changed completely. In the past, the web was focused mainly on desktop computers with ever larger screens. Now, the web needs to focus on the exact opposite: mobile computers and smaller screens. You may have heard the term responsive design or possibly responsive layouts bandied about, and you may have a general idea of what it is.
Regardless, let me give you a short primer. What you see here is the original Responsive Web Design article written by Ethan Marcotte and published on A List apart on May 25th, 2010. This article outlines what was to become the definition of responsive web design. The idea presented in the article is that any web site should conform and realign the content to the device that's accessing it so that if the screen is big, you have a lot of content; if the screen is small, you reorganize the content so that it fits and give the users a good user experience.
This idea was quite revolutionary when the article was published, but now responsive design has become the new standard for the web, and it should be the new standard for the web, because we as web developers and designers need to ensure that when people visit web sites with different devices they should get a consistent experience through all these different devices so that they recognize the web site and they know what's going on. But that's all theory. Let's look at some examples. First, let's look at a web site that's not responsive. This is the web site I made for the 12x12 Vancouver Photo Marathon several years ago.
It looks great on a desktop, and it functions quite well. However, if I reduce the size of my window, you will see that this site is not responsive. If I reduce it down past the standard width of the site, you will see that the margins of my window start covering content. And to access the content, I have to use a scrollbar, scroll left and right. And if you were to visit this site using a cell phone or a tablet, you'd notice you'd have to do pinch-and- zoom behavior to be able to see all the content and read it. That is not a good user experience, and that is not responsive design.
If you want to employ responsive design on a WordPress site, you really don't have to go any further than the 2011 theme, which is the stock theme for WordPress. The 2011 theme is already responsive. So, if I reduce the size of the window here, you will see that the content reorganizes and reshapes to fit the size of the window. And you will see that content like the sidebar will appear when there's room for it and disappear, or rather, move down to the bottom of the site, when there's no room.
This allows for a consistent look and design across multiple devices without forcing the users to have to do extra behaviors to get to all the content. Lastly, let's take a look at the project we are going to be working on in this course. For this course, I created a new WordPress theme that you can work with, you are going to customize, and that you can use for your own web site if you want to when you are done. This theme is fully responsive, and you can see it when we resize the window. The front page has a masonry layout that automatically reorganizes the content depending on the size of the screen.
And you will notice that in addition, the menu changes from a standard list menu to a more advanced menu when the screen gets small enough so that it's easier to use on touch devices. If we go to single posts, you will see that on small screens the title and all the information is on top. But as we scale up the window, you will see that the title and other information slide to the left side, leaving the content on the right.
The whole point of having a web site is for people to be able to access the information on that web site. That means as the technology landscape changes, so the web site has to change to accommodate this new reality. Responsive design is at the heart of this new paradigm.
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