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Responsive Design is Accessible Design

    Last Updated on March 21, 2024

    Addressing the ever-changing landscape of devices by creating flexible, fluid, adaptive, and accessible web sites

    When people talk about a Responsive Website, they are usually talking about one that works well on a mobile phone. Responsive means however, that it should work on any size screen. Even larger ones. There are hundreds of different standard size screens from mobile phones to desktop screens. What about the screens you see in hospitals or train stations? Shouldn’t a website scale nicely outwards as well as inwards?

    Expanding Our Perspective

    In the past we (okay really nerdy people like myself possibly not you) would shrink the size of the browser to see how a website scales, and then check again on a mobile device for loading and compatibility. Now I am also opening a really large screen to see how what the website does with say 500 more pixels. Does the font size increase? Are there more images? Larger information boxes? NOT only do we need to think about shrinking but also expanding real estate.

    Mobile-People-Friendly Design

    It’s no secret that we are glued to our phones. We spend over 2 hours a day looking at it. You might be surprised, however, to learn how much we can accomplish on those screens. Are you looking at the menu offering at school? Or are you trying to find a shop while you ride your bike? That a website is easily accessed on a mobile device is extremely important to the success of your business is very clear.  However, not only your website but your stand-alone advertising MUST be accessible (and friendly) on all devices and screen sizes.

    It goes without saying that any communication tool needs to be responsively designed.  Some people we have talked with are still unfamiliar with what it’s all about.  The real hype about mobile-friendly websites began with “Responsive Web Design”, an article in 2010 by Ethan Marcotte on A List Apart. When we heard him talk in 2011 it was an epiphany.

    Essentially, the article proposed addressing the ever-changing landscape of devices, browsers, screen sizes and orientations by creating flexible, fluid and adaptive Web sites. Instead of responding to a desktop Web version adapted to the most common screen resolution, along with a particular mobile version (often specific to a single mobile device), the idea was to approach the issue the other way around: use flexible and fluid layouts that adapt to almost any screen.

    Accessibility and Inclusive Design

    A responsive website is much more than designing for a mobile device. Ensure your website is mobile-friendly and responsive to different screen sizes while considering accessibility and inclusive design. Accessibility means making your digital content and services usable to all individuals, regardless of their abilities. (See WCAG Initiative)

    Incorporate accessibility features like alternative text for images, captioning videos, clear language, and proper heading structures for easy navigation with screen readers and accessible keyboard navigation.

    By making your website more accessible, you comply with legal requirements and industry standards, while also reaching a larger audience, including people with disabilities and older individuals.

    Inclusive design benefits everyone with a user-friendly interface that adapts to various devices and browsing preferences, leading to increased customer satisfaction, improved search engine rankings, and better overall user engagement.

    EAAA Reminder:

    Is your website Data Protection compliant? What about Accessibility compliant? Businesses will need to comply with the EAA by no later than June 2025. Not only EU businesses – any business website that has traffic from the EU. Just like GDPR. 

    The European Accessibility Act (EAA) seeks to remove accessibility barriers to a range of goods and services traded in the internal market. It will make it easier for persons with disabilities to find accessible products and services. (See more

    There is No Better Time to be Responsive than Now

    There are still websites that have not redesigned in a responsive format – too bad, because not only Drupal and WordPress include this as standard in their core themes.  If you are interested in reading more about Responsive Design please check out the book by the man who started it all:

    Ethan Marcotte’s book on Responsive Design is both accessible and thorough: