The BBC goes 'responsive'

My primary source of news on the Internet has for years been the BBC. They have been at the forefront of the digital revolution. So it's informative that over the last few weeks they've launched a revised beta test version of their news site. Apart from a minor visual redsign this site is 'responsive'.  The BBC was the most popular news provider on a mobile handset (14.5 million users) in April 2014, and a fifth of mobile internet users access news on their handset every day (Ofcom)


New BBC site on various devicesA responsive design aims to build web pages that detect the screen size and orientation of a device and change the way it looks accordingly. Responsive design has prompted a lot of discussion over the last couple of years as more and more people ditch the traditional computer and use a variety of tablets and mobile phones to browse the web. Looking at traffic to some of our own sites over the last couple of months non-PC users account for up to 40% of all traffic. And we know that over 80% of internet users now have a Smartphone. That's a lot of people to annoy with a rigid design!

The BBC has taken a similar approach to that taken by ourselves and many other responsive designs. The page is laid out as a grid of cells. The height, width and placement of the rectangles in this grid vary depending on the available real-estate on the visitors browser.

On a high resolution desktop screen the web site might place four 'cells' next to each other taking most of the available width. On a tablet the cells might be narrower and taller, with images being automatically sized as appropriate. On a mobile phone each cell may take the whole width and be placed one under another.

In addition to changing the size of each of the cells, the system may decide to hide some completely to reduce clutter when viewed on a mobile device. A very common example is to remove a full width menu on a desktop with a simple button on a phone.

Anyone that's browsed the Internet on a mobile device will know how great 'responsive' sites can be and how completely frustrating are those sites that insist you're sat at a desktop and show you 4 columns of pixel high text - requiring you to pinch, grab and pan to see anything useful. Or of course give up completely.

Website design goes in waves. First there were the garish, multi-coloured, multi-imaged designs of the early part of the century. There followed a period of sanity where clean design and usability prevailed. Now is the 'responsive' wave, once more driven by users rather than techies.

How's your web site? Have you looked at your traffic recently? If not, why not? Have you looked at your own site on a mobile device? If you haven't you can be sure any number of potential customers have.  Run your site through the Google Mobile-Friendly test to see if your site is responsive for moble visitors here.

If you find your current site lacking then come and talk with us and we can help you understand how you could move forward. Take the opportunity for a visual make over or to do more with your web-site than simply show a brochure. Start to attract and engage a new audience and grow your business with CommsBox responsive website and marketing automation software.

Peter WilsonPeter is the chief architect for the CommsBox™ Integrated Marketing Platform. With over 30 years experience in a variety of R&D and IT positions Peter has worked for both large multi-national organisations and small technology start-ups. Peter founded YellowHawk in 2002 to bring Enterprise class web-applications to the SME market.


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