responsive web design


For the past two decades, the people with the design and technical skills necessary to craft a visually appealing and effective website have had access to a rapidly-expanding field of clients that needed their abilities.Yet as soon as a market seemed to have coalesced and consolidated around desktop browser based application delivery, the sudden rise of smartphones brought a whole new challenge into the mix for web-based application testing.

In 2013 alone, internet usage on smartphones and tablets in the United States nearly doubled and people are spending more time on Mobile Apps than they are on Desktop Browsers!

What’s more, the rapid increase in different operating systems for these devices, has made the skill of web design a lot more complicated, and, consequently, the testing much harder. Using more conventional methods of CSS design, like sizing pages with absolute specification by pixel or point, will render many webpages differently on different devices. These fixed designs make web users need to resize the pages personally, leading to a poor user experience. For mobile users, it means that annoying moment of having to pinch and drag, or, even worse, having to constantly scroll back and forth to simply read a page.  As these problems become more noticeable, it has become inexcusable for software companies to provide bad user experiences for customers.  Web-based application testing has existed for years; however, it has become markedly more elaborate to support design principles across a wider spectrum of devices and features. This sheer number of form factors, operating systems and screen sizes & resolution has been a driving force in the adoption of Responsive Design & Development practices.  So much so, that Mashable proclaimed 2013 as The Year of Responsive Design!

In response to this new complication, web developers have quickly adopted responsive design techniques, which aims to code sites and applications in such a way as to optimize web pages for mobile delivery across devices and form factors, with a minimum of resizing and panning. Responsive design uses alternative coding techniques, flexible grids & layouts and CSS media queries, that makes size specifications based off of relative measurement or percentages rather than pixels. This way, a web page will map to the display constraints of various mobile devices, and lines and images won’t run off the side of the screen.

Another facet of responsive design used in application testing is mobile device detection, in which the web page is coded to figure out what device it is being used on and to respond accordingly. This is particularly important for older or more basic smartphones that do not recognize JavaScript or other programming languages. With device detection, a web page can know to switch over to a more basic language to accommodate these devices. While smart phones are becoming more sophisticated, with many being able to handle most anything a computer can, there are still many people, particularly older or more rural demographics, that use very basic feature phones with limited on-device processing capabilities.The increase in technology will not necessarily decrease the amount of people using the more basic devices, which is why device detection will only become more important as the years go on.

Web-based application testing software has changed with the rise of responsive design to help it cope with the increasing number of devices on which a webpage must be compatible. As the percentage of internet usage happening via mobile devices continues to increase, businesses who are making these apps will need a way to ensure that their apps are usable across all devices. Beyond mere compatibility, however, these applications must also be easy and visually appealing to consume. Just as webpages on computers quickly lose a viewer if the design is poor, an application on a phone will lose a viewer by the mere fact that it won’t properly format itself to fit the screen. For a business, this is the loss of a potential customer. So when testing these applications, the app creator will be looking to do everything they can to enhance the user’s experience, and responsive design has gone a long way to help with that.

Web-based application testing software can no longer provide a few simple views of each device on the market, but instead must be able to understand the intricacies of responsive design across the spectrum of screen sizes, resolutions, operating systems, and devices.