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April 03 2013

10:33

What's Holding Back Responsive Web Design? Advertising

Responsive web design -- where "one design fits all devices" -- continues to gain momentum. Dozens of responsive sites have popped up, and a recent post on Idea Lab from Journalism Accelerator outlined how and why media sites should go responsive.

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But hold your horses. Despite the mounting hype, responsive websites are still far from becoming ubiquitous, and for good reason.

As much as responsive web design improves user experience and makes it easier for publishers to go cross-platform, the industry's struggle with delivering profitable ads during the first big shift from print to web is still happening. And in this second big shift to a responsive web, that struggle is magnified.

It Has To Look Different

The surface-level problem that a responsive-designed website poses for advertising is that ads are typically delivered in fixed dimensions (not proportional to the size of their container) and typically sold based on exact position. Initial solutions to this issue largely focus on making ads as flexible as the web page, i.e., selling ads in packages that include different sizes to fit all sorts of devices, rather than the traditional fixed-width slots, or making ads that are themselves responsive. Ad firm ResponsiveAds, for example, has come up with various strategies for making ads adjust to different screen sizes.

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These diagrams from ResponsiveAds show how display ads themselves can respond to different screen sizes.

But these approaches are not yet ideal. For example, when the Boston Globe went responsive in 2011, the site used just a few fixed-sized ads, placed in highly controlled positions that could then move around the page.

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Andrés Max, a software engineer and user experience designer at Mashable, told me via email: "In the end technology (and screen resolutions) will keep evolving, so we must create ads and websites that are more adaptive than responsive."

Here, he means that ads should adapt to the medium and device instead of just responding to set resolution break-points. After all, we might also need to scale up ads for websites accessed on smart TVs.

Miranda Mulligan, the executive director of the Knight Lab at Northwestern University and part of the team that helped the Globe transition to responsive, agrees. She told me via email, "We need a smarter ad serving system that can detect viewport sizes, device capability, and they should be set up to be highly structured, with tons of associated metadata to maximize flexibility for display."

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Moreover, many web ads today are rich media ads -- i.e., takeovers, video, pop-overs, etc. -- so incorporating these interactive rich ads goes beyond a flexibility in sizes. A lot of pressure is resting on designers and developers to innovate ad experiences for the future, but evolving tech tools can help clear a path for making interactive ads flexible and fluid. The arrival of HTML5 brought many helpful additions that aid in creating responsive sites in general.

"HTML5 does provide lots of room for innovation not only for responsive but for richer websites and online experiences," Max said. "For example, we will see a lot of use of the canvas concept for creating great online games and interactions."

Display Advertising Is Still Broken

In the iceberg of web advertising problems, what ads will look like on responsive sites is just the tip. According to Mulligan, a major underlying problem is still the lack of communication between publishing and advertising. The ad creation and delivery environment is infinitely complex. Publishers range from small to very large, and much of the web development code and creative visuals are made outside of the core web publishing team.

One of the problems is that there are so many moving parts and parties involved: ad networks that publishers subscribe to; ad servers that publishers own themselves; ad servers that publishers license from other companies; sales teams within large publishers; the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB); and more. The obligatory silos make it very hard for good communication and flexible results to transpire.

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The challenge of mobile advertising on responsive sites, Mulligan later said via phone, "has very little to do with the web design technique and has a lot to do with the fact that we have really complicated ways of getting revenue attached to our websites."

In other words, the display ad system is still broken. And now, the same old problem is more pronounced in responsive mobile sites, where another layer of complication is introduced.

"We have to go and talk to seven different places and say, 'you know how you used to give us creative that would've been fixed-width? What we need from you now is flexible-width,'" Mulligan said.

While responsive web design inherently may not be the source of advertising difficulties, the fact that it amplifies the existing problems is a good reason for web publishers to be cautious about going responsive. In the meantime, a paradigm shift in how web content generates revenue is still desperately needed. Instead of plunging into using responsive ads for responsive sites, perhaps everyone can get in the same room and prototype alternatives to display ads altogether.

The Boston Globe screenshots above were captured by the BuySellAds blog.

Jenny Xie is the PBS MediaShift editorial intern. Jenny is a senior at Massachusetts Institute of Technology studying architecture and management. She is a digital-media junkie fascinated by the intersection of media, design, and technology. Jenny can be found blogging for MIT Admissions, tweeting @canonind, and sharing her latest work and interests here.

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September 01 2011

09:19

The ultimate responsive web design roundup

Responsive design is the new darling of the web design world. It seems that not a week goes by that there aren’t new resources for doing it, opinions about how to do it or even whether to do it at all, and new sites that make beautiful use of it.

It can quickly get overwhelming trying to keep up with it all.

Here we’ve compiled a list of more than seventy resources for creating responsive designs.

Included are articles discussing responsive design and related theories, frameworks and boilerplates for responsive layouts, tools for testing your responsive designs, techniques for resizable images, and a whole lot more.

Then, to top it all off, we’ve collected a hundred of the best responsive designs out there right now to inspire you and give you some real-world ideas.

Articles and Publications

Below are a number of high-quality articles talking about responsive design and the techniques that go into it. Some might include a few code snippets or other technical information, but for the most part, these are concept-level discussions.

Responsive Web Design

This is the original post by Ethan Marcotte that was posted on A List Apart. It discusses the reasoning and principles behind responsive design, as well as practical techniques for creating responsive sites.


Responsive Web Design Book

Responsive Web Design by Ethan Marcotte, published by A Book Apart, covers the state of the responsive web, flexible grids, flexible images, media queries, and how to create responsive designs.


The Practicalities of CSS Media Queries, Lessons Learned

This post, from Bloop, is a fantastic overview of how to use media queries (and their pros and cons compared to creating a dedicated mobile site), as well as some useful tips for implementing them. Some useful code snippets are included, too.


Big vs. Small: Challenges in Responsive Web Design

This article discusses some of the challenges responsive web design can present, including the unique considerations that are required as desktop screen sizes continue to grow, while at the same time many users are now accessing the web more on tablets or smartphones.


Beginner’s Guide to Responsive Web Design

This Beginner’s Guide from Think Vitamin offers a great introduction to responsive design, including information on fluid grids and media queries.


Responsive Web Design: What It Is and How To Use It

This introduction to responsive design from Smashing Magazine is a great primer on the subject. It covers the basic concept, as outlined by Ethan Marcotte, as well as practical concerns for creating responsive designs. Code examples are also included.


Responsive by Default

This article from Andy Hume discusses why the web is responsive by default, and that designers have been forcing it to be un-responsive for years. It’s an interesting idea, discussed mostly from a developer’s point of view.


Content Choreography

We often talk about responsive design strictly from the technical end of things, but the entire point of responsive design is to improve the content experience. This post from Trent Walton talks about just that, how stacking content isn’t always the best solution, and what can be done instead.


Understanding the Elements of Responsive Web Design

This post from Six Revisions covers the basics of responsive design: flexible grid, flexible images, and media queries.


A Brief Overview of Responsive Design

Here’s another great basic rundown of what responsive design is and how to achieve it, this time from 1st Web Designer.


Responsive Web Design has Created Opportunities Across the Board

This post covers some of the opportunities that responsive design presents for designers and developers.


Designing for a Responsive Web

This article from Webdesigntuts+ discusses responsive design in terms of fluid grid, fluid images, and media queries.


Experimenting with Responsive Web Design

This article from Lee Munroe gives a simple overview of responsive design, particularly media queries, as well as some examples.


CSS3 Media Queries

Web Designer Wall offers a great roundup of media query code snippets, responsive design examples, and more in this article.


20 Amazing Examples of Using Media Queries for Responsive Web Design

This post from Design Shack offers up some great examples of responsive design, as well as plenty of information how to create your own responsive sites.


Context

This post from Adactio covers some of the confusion that often surrounds responsive design, breaking it down in simple terms and offering some useful insight.


A Richer Canvas

This article from Mark Boulton discusses some of the advantages that responsive design, CSS3, and other tools give designers and content creators, specifically that we should be designing from the content out, rather than the other way around.


Some Thoughts on Responsive Web-Design and Media Queries

This post from Jon Phillips discusses some of the potential downsides to responsive design and, more importantly, offers some great solutions.


Responsive Web Design and Mobile Context

This post discusses how mobile devices are being used for browsing web content, and how that can affect your responsive design choices.


The New Front End Design Stack: The Role of Responsive Design

This post from Acquia discusses the importance of responsive design, offers some great examples, the technical elements that go into creating responsive designs, and more.


Responsive Web Design from the Future

Responsive Web Design from the Future is a presentation by Kyle Neath that discusses the future of web design in relation to responsive design principles.


To Hell With Bad Devices: Responsive Web Design and Web Standards

This is an in-depth look at responsive design, discussing device-specific design, what responsive design means for apps, and more.


The Pros and Cons of Responsive Web Design

Plenty of articles discuss how to create a responsive design, but not that many discuss the good and bad things about responsive designs. The Pam does just that, giving a fairly comprehensive list of the positives and negatives associated.


11 Reasons Why Responsive Web Design Isn’t That Cool

This post from WebDesignShock outlines some of the potential challenges and problems that responsive design can present.


Tutorials

The tutorials below will teach you about CSS media queries and other responsive design techniques.

Quick Tip: A Crash-Course in CSS Media Queries

This Nettuts+ tutorial offers some basics for working with media queries, complete with video tutorial and code snippets.


Adaptive Layouts with Media Queries

This tutorial from .Net Magazine offers a look at basic CSS3 media query techniques. It includes plenty of code snippets and practical information about crafting your own responsive layouts.


Responsive Web Design: A Visual Guide

This video tutorial from Tuts+ offers a great introduction to what responsive design looks like, with examples. It then explains how to create your own responsive design, taking into account both the visual and technical aspects.


CSS Media Queries & Using Available Space

This post from CSS-Tricks explains the concept of using media queries to take advantage of the available space in the browser viewport. It includes plenty of useful code snippets and examples.


Working with Media Queries

Here’s a short tutorial for working with media queries, with plenty of code examples. It’s basic and to-the-point, but a perfect introduction to basic media queries.


How to Use CSS3 Orientation Media Queries

Media queries are great for adjusting the way your responsive design displays on different browser sizes, but a lot of designers overlook the orientation controls. These allow you to change the way your site is displayed based on whether a device is currently oriented to portrait or landscape mode, which is useful for both smart phones and tablets.


Optimizing Your Email for Mobile Devices with the @media Query

We often overlook HTML email newsletters when thinking about responsive design, but considering the number of people who are likely to view your HTML emails on their phone, it’s a good idea to use media queries in this case. This post from Campaign Monitor explains how it’s done.


How to Use CSS3 Media Queries to Create a Mobile Version of Your Website

This post from Smashing Magazine explains how to use media queries for creating a mobile site or otherwise linking separate stylesheets.


Adaptive & Responsive Design with CSS3 Media Queries

This fantastic post from Web Designer Wall includes a responsive design template, as well as a tutorial on how the template was created. It’s a great resource for those who like to learn new techniques by dissecting finished projects.


Responsive Web Design with HTML5 and the Less Framework 3

This article from SitePoint offers thorough instructions for creating a responsive design using HTML5 and the Less Framework. It includes all the code you’ll need for the final design, as well as a good breakdown of what that code does.


Tools and Techniques

The techniques and tools below make it a lot easier to create designs that respond the way you want them to. Many are for handling images (arguably one of the more challenging aspects of responsive design), but there are others, too.

CSS Effect: Spacing Images Out to Match Text Height

Depending on your layout, you may need text to line up properly with images, regardless of how the images and text are spaced. This technique from Zomigi shows you how to do just that.


Hiding and Revealing Portions of Images

Resizing images can only take you so far with responsive designs in some cases. At times, it’s more important for a particular part of an image to be visible or readable than for the entire image to be shown. That’s where this technique from Zomigi can come in handy. It makes it possible to dynamically crop background and foreground images as your layout width changes.


Creating Sliding Composite Images

This technique, from Zomigi, lets you create what appears to be a single image but is actually multiple images layered on top of one another. In this way, you can control the exact placement of different elements of the image as your browser viewport changes size and shape.


Seamless Responsive Photo Grid

This gallery from CSS-Tricks offers up a seamless photo grid that automatically resizes your images and the overall grid to fit your browser viewport.


Responsive Data Tables

Responsive design techniques aren’t very friendly to data tables. It’s easy to end up with tables where the type is so small it’s impossible to read. Or you can specify a minimum width, but then that kind of defeats the purpose of a responsive design. This technique from CSS-Tricks offers a solution for responsively displaying tabular data on a mobile device.


Foreground Images that Scale with the Layout

So it’s easy enough to create scaling background images, but foreground images are a little trickier. This article covers a technique from Zomigi for creating foreground images in your content that will scale with your layout.


FitText

FitText is a jQuery plugin for scaling headline text in your responsive designs. Using this, your text will always fill the width of the parent element.


Sencha.io Src

Sencha.io Src is an image hosting service that sizes your images to the appropriate size for the device requesting them. Images are also optimized for efficient repeat delivery.


The Goldilocks Approach to Responsive Design

This post by Chris Armstrong talks about the “Goldilocks Approach” for creating responsive designs that are “just right” for any device.


Responsive-Images

Responsive-Images is an experiment in mobile-first images that scale responsively to fit your design. The idea is to deliver optimized, contextual image sizes in responsive layouts.


Lettering.js

Lettering.js is a jQuery plugin that gives you precise control over the way your web typography appears, which can be a big plus in maintaining readability in a responsive design.


Fluid Images

This technique from Ethan Marcotte creates fluid-width images for your fluid designs. It also works for embedded videos, and there’s a workaround for IE compatibility.


Respond

Respond is a lightweight polyfill script for min/max width CSS3 media queries, to make them work in Internet Explorer 6-8. It’s only 3kb minified, or 1kb gzipped.


Modernizr

Modernizr is a toolkit for HTML5 and CSS3 that provides JavaScript-driven feature detection combined with media queries.


Responsive Web Design Sketch Sheets

If you wireframe your designs on paper, you’ll find these Responsive Web Design Sketch Sheets to be very useful. There are a couple of different layouts you can download for free, each of which shows a handful of likely device viewports.


Frameworks and Boilerplates

Frameworks and boilerplates can greatly speed up your design process. The good news is that there are tons of boilerplates and frameworks already available for creating responsive designs.

Golden Grid System

The Golden Grid System uses a 16-column base design for widescreen monitors. On tablets, the columns will fold into an 8-column layout. And on smaller smartphone screens, the columns fold again to 4-columns, allowing the design to adapt to anything from a 2560 pixel wide screen down to a 240 pixel screen.


The Semantic Grid System

The Semantic Grid System allows for fluid layouts and responsive designs, while also using semantic markup (which is sorely lacking from most grid frameworks).


Gridless

Gridless is an HTML5 and CSS3 boilerplate for creating mobile-first responsive websites. It includes no predefined grid system and no non-semantic classes.


Less Framework 4

The Less Framework is a CSS grid system for designing responsive sites that adapt to the size of the browser viewport. It has four layouts: default (for desktops and landscape mode tablets), tablet layout, wide mobile layout, and mobile layout. This is a good option for designers who want a responsive design but don’t necessarily want fluid columns.


Responsive Twenty Ten

Responsive Twenty Ten is based on the Twenty Ten WordPress theme. There’s also a plugin available to turn your Twenty Ten child theme into a responsive design.


Columnal

Columnal is a CSS grid system that’s a “remix” of some other grids, with added custom code. The elastic grid base is taken from cssgrid.net, while other bits of code are taken from 960.gs.


1140 CSS Grid

The 1140 CSS Grid System is a flexible, fluid grid that will rearrange based on the browser viewport. It’s designed to fit perfectly in a 1280 pixel wide monitor, but becomes fluid below that.


320 and Up

320 and Up uses the mobile-first principle to prevent mobile devices from downloading desktop assets. It’s an alternative to starting with a desktop version and scaling down.


Skeleton

Skeleton is a boilterplate for responsive, mobile-friend designs. It starts with the 960 grid but scales down for smaller screens, and is designed to be both fast to get started with a style agnostic.


Fluid Grid System

The Fluid Grid System is based on a six-column grid and has 720 different layout possibilities. Because of its simplicity, it degrades well in older browsers.


Fluid 960 Grid System

The Fluid 960 Grid System is based on 960.gs, but has a fluid layout regardless of browser size.


Foldy960

Foldy960 is a responsive version of 960.gs. It consists of some extra classes and other things for turning a 960.gs design into a responsive design.


SimpleGrid

SimpleGrid is another responsive grid framework that supports infinite nesting. It’s configured for screens at four different sizes, including 1235px and 720px.


Testing Tools

These tools make it much easier to test your responsive designs without having to use a bunch of different devices.

resizeMyBrowser

resizeMyBrowser is a useful testing tool for responsive designs. Just click one of the predefined browser size buttons and your browser will resize. Each size is labeled with the name of at least one device that uses that resolution.


responsivepx

responsivepx is a browser testing tool that lets you enter a URL (local or online) and then adjust the height and width of the browser viewport to see exact break-point widths in pixels.


Responsive Design Testing

Matt Kersley has created this browser testing tool that lets you see exactly how your site displays at common browser widths, starting at 240px and going up to 1024px.


Screenfly

Screenfly shows you how a website will look on various devices, including internet-enabled TVs and mobile devices.


Adobe Device Central

A number of Adobe Creative Suite products come with Device Central, which can be a very valuable tool for testing your responsive designs. It lets you not only preview, but also test your designs on the device of your choice.


Examples

Below are 100 examples of fantastic responsive designs. There are a lot more sites out there using the technique, and new ones are launched every day. One great resource for finding new sites is Media Queries, a gallery dedicated specifically to sites using responsive design techniques.

Profi Span


Forgotten Presidents


Ben Handzo


Aaron Shekey


The Highway Hurricanes


dConstruct 2011


Merlin Ord & Media


The Happy Bit


Forefathers


Easy Readers: Adaptive Web Design


More Hazards More Heroes


Facts Regula


Hi, My Name is Andrew


Sifter


FoodDrinkEurope


The Obvious Corporation


Geek in the Park


Mapalong


JCHELBY


10K Apart


Expositio


Food Sense


New Adventures in Web Design Conference


Cisco London 2012


Team PAWS Chicago


Diablo Media


Andersson-Wise Architects


Designing with Data


Full Frontal 2011


Aaron Weyenberg


Web Design Yorkshire


Winnie Lim


Urban Svensson


Luke Williams


Upperdog


Writer


Toronto Standard


Design Professionalism


Impact Dialing


Modernizr


Johan Brook


Dust and Mold Design


Gridchin


Staffanstorp


El Sendero del Cacao


Dustin Senos


Kisko Labs



51bits


digitalHappy


Patrick Grady


Trent Walton


Headshift


Owltastic


WeeNudge


Ash Physical Training


Mark Boulton


The Modern Gentleman


Build Guild


Do Lectures


David Hughes


320 and Up


About.com


Really Simple


Splendid


Leica Explorer


Spigot Design


Cohenspire


Jason Weaver


Joni Korpi


iwantedrock.com


Converge SE


Pelican Fly


Simple Bits


Information Architects


Andy Croll


Hicks Design


8 Faces


The Sweet Hat Club


Little Pea Bakery


Sleepstreet


Andrew Revitt


Cujo.jp


Interim.it


Philip Meissner Design


Teixido


Transfinancieel


UX London


Jeremy Madrid


Brad Dielman


Thomas Prior


Clearleft


Herjen Oldenbeuving


Bureau


City Crawlers Berlin


CSS-Tricks


Robot…or Not?


Marcelino Llano


Caleb Ogden


A Flexible Grid


Simon Collison


More roundups

Here are some more great responsive design roundups from other sites.


Written exclusively for WDD by Cameron Chapman.

Are you using responsive design techniques in your projects? Know of any resources we missed? Let us know in the comments!

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