Rian van der Merwe, director of Flow Interactive (twitter.com)
Van der Merwe told the Heavy Chef Project, which invites experts in various fields of digital marketing to talk at monthly events in Cape Town and Johannesburg as well as in London in the United Kingdom, the internet is not what it used to be, when it was accessible through a modem connected to a computer. The landscape now, he said, is considerably different.
“The web has changed for everyone, we’re now accessing the web in very different ways than we used to,” said van der Merwe.
“It’s very clear to see how the growth in PCs have slowed and how growth in mobile sales have increased.”
“In 2002 there were 49 million cell phones in Africa, by 2011 there were 500 million cell phones... But the problem is for every smartphone in Africa in 2011 there were 32 dumb phones.”
However, van der Merwe said the “dumb phone” market will not pose as big a problem in the coming years as feature phones are seemingly decreasing as the smartphone market becomes more popular.
The above statistics indicate the importance of responsive web design, especially in Africa where mobile devices are often the only way of accessing the internet.
“When we talk about responsive design, we talk about websites that adapt to the screen size” of mobile devices, “...as the page gets smaller, as you go to tablet size or to a phone’s size, the content shifts around - called content choreography... [and] it resizes. So it’s one site [with] one code base that adapts to any kind of device...” said van der Merwe.
Van der Merwe explained why responsive web design is so important: “First one is Google recommends it... it is good for the SEO (search engine optimisation) because there are no redirects.
“Second reason... it’s device agnostic... It’s good value for money, I know that some people think that it is more expensive, but... it could be more expensive up front, but once you have one code base to maintain, there’s an enormous amount of value in that.”
This means the developers and/or designers of the site will not have to continuously update the code of a mobi site every time the PC site is updated. Furthermore, van der Merwe said it simply makes for a better overall experience for the users and by extension, makes more money.
Van der Merwe then provided some advice for developers with regards to the coding of a responsive website. Part of that advice included the use of images.
“I think images are the biggest problem with responsive design and it is something that we haven’t figured out yet... So the best way to make your site lighter is to take some of the pictures away - take some of the people looking at salads and pointing at computers [away]. You can have less of those and actually focus on the content.”