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Long White Digital Ltd

Awesome website design for the third sector, charities, start-ups, arts and social enterprises

Making the responsive leap

By Tim Reader, 23 December 2013
In: Our news

Well it’s now December 2013 already? And 1 year since we vowed to take the plunge into responsive web design (RWD). As it happens, nearly everyone else on the web made the plunge too. Much as 2003, with the launch of CSS Zen Garden and other such inspiration, began a sea-change towards CSS-driven presentation in websites, so 2013 will be looked back upon as the year of a big switchover to responsive. If it can’t be said that everyone made that switch, then it can certainly be said that anyone who’s anyone did. I’m so pleased not to have been left behind!

As a small business it’s often very difficult to decide which of the myriad ‘new’ technologies to focus on. Even though looking back it can seem a no-brainer, it’s far from that clear-cut at the time. A shift like “all our sites will now be responsive” or “we will now use Git version control across our client sites” has enormous ramifications to the business that backing the wrong horse could be disastrous.

Responsive has on its side that, for us ‘second generation’ webbies who cut our teeth in the early 2000s it does seem a fairly natural and intuitive learning cruve. Thanks to Zeldman other great proponents of standards-based design, we learned that optimising for Internet Explorer and neglecting its compeititors — or vice versa — was not on. And we also learned that writing so many CSS hacks that you were virtually providing a different website to cater for each browser was wrong too.

For those of us that learned those lessons at a formative stage, the futility of building and maintaining separate mobile and desktop sites is just obvious. It’s kind of a given that you shouldn’t optimise the smartphone experience for iPhone, just because that’s what you own. But it might not have always been so obvious….

It goes back to the basic precepts of Web Accessibility , and that’s very refreshing to be finally thinking that way again after – I confess – a few years in the accessibility wilderness.

Indeed, for the first time in a while, the responsive mentality means that we have released sites this year that support IE6 (admittedly with a text-only legacy stylesheet, but nevertheless, better than a scrambled version of what works perfectly well in IE9 but is unreadable in anything below). Both the sites we received for the Natural History Museum and the AFP Foundation work on probably the widest number of platforms, browsers and devices of anything we’ve produced. And that’s a good feeling.

I joked all year in pitch meetings about hypothetical smartwatches — how, if you’re doing it properly, you can build with 2-inch screens in mind — blissfully unaware that by the end of the year the first ones would be getting shipped. The future always arrives sooner than you think.

But as ever, no one’s every going to buy shoes from the cobbler whose children walk the streets barefoot.

So here it is, the re-booted Long White Digital site with various improvements – most notably including mobile-optimised responsive design (tablet will follow in 2014 — one thing at a time).

We hope you enjoy, and as ever we welcome feedback – whether good or bad!