Why Your Website Should Be Responsive By Now

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Recently, The Guardian posted an article stating that apps are more popular than the mobile web and that the average daily number of minutes spent browsing the web on your iPhone or iPad has dropped from 31 minutes to 22 minutes since 2012. Instead of referring to a web browser to surf the web, mobile users now prefer to use apps for the different products they use and spend more time on game apps on their phone.

As a web designer, it’s easy to take this information and kind of freak out. Admittedly, when I first read the article, some of the thoughts that went through my head included, “Is the web browser going to die? But I build websites for a living! I’m going to starve!!” and “Why am I always late to everything!!” But, once I started to calm down, I started to realize why this trend is happening.

The vast majority of websites look like garbage on a phone.

When you look at a website on your phone, a lot of the time the text is tiny. Then when you zoom in you have to scroll from side to side all over the place or the buttons are so small that you can’t tap them with your fingertips without hitting two or three of them at once. Looking at a desktop-wide website on a tiny screen is painful and whenever I find myself on a website on my phone that requires me to zoom in and then scroll left and right, I leave almost immediately. It’s no wonder mobile web-browsing has made a drastic drop! People are just giving up!

A classic rule of web design and any kind of interface design is, “don’t make me think”. People shouldn’t have to desperately search while scrolling and zooming on their phone just to find out what the number for pizza delivery is on a website.

Enter Responsive Design

Responsive design isn’t a new concept by any means, but it seems to have taken a really long time to actually catch on. It’s so weird because experiencing a responsive website on your phone versus a non-responsive website is SO much more pleasant. All of the sudden things fit where they should, buttons are bigger, and you don’t have to zoom in or scroll sideways anymore. You can view a website on a tablet, phone, or an eReader, and it still looks great. Making a website responsive so that it works on any device is a little bit more of a time investment from your web designer or developer and therefore also a financial investment. If having a responsive design means that someone visiting your website on their phone is going to buy your product instead of ditching your website because they can’t find what they’re looking for – then in my opinion, it’s definitely worth the investment.

But if people aren’t browsing websites on mobile devices anyways, why is responsive design so important?

Back in 2010, Mashable published this article  suggesting that by 2015, mobile web use would be bigger than desktop web use. While people are spending more time on mobile devices than on desktop computers than they were before, what we’re seeing now is not more mobile browsing, it’s more usage of native apps and games. If the trend of mobile web browsing is on the decline, then why should we even care about responsive design?

The answer is pretty simple. Have you ever been on the Facebook or Twitter app on your phone or even in your mobile email inbox and seen a link to some interesting content on another website? Then when you clicked that link did you end up on a screen with tiny type and tons of side scrolling? Did you become frustrated quickly with the illegible text and tiny buttons meant for Tinkerbell hands? That’s why responsive design still matters.

If you’re a small business and you rely on “word of mouth” to market your business, a huge percentage of your web traffic can come from social sharing sites like Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest – which are all apps that people spend time using on their phone or tablet. People might not be cruising through their bookmarks toolbar while their on their iPhone or iPad, but they might see a link you posted on Twitter and want to visit your website. And if your website doesn’t work on a phone, then they’re probably not going to read your content.

Responsive design makes sense based on how we use the internet these days. A few years ago, you’d have to go to a computer and sit down to access the internet, now it’s available everywhere, literally in the palm of your hand. When you’re adaptive to technology, it doesn’t just make your website a pleasure to use on any device, but it also makes your customers trust you. People notice when you’re accommodating to them, and if someone can’t find what they’re looking for on your website because it isn’t mobile-friendly, then you’re basically turning away your customers before they even get in the door. Responsive isn’t the future, and it isn’t an “add-on bonus feature” it’s the important thing that your website must have right now.

The Best Things I Found on the Internet: April 11

Hello and Happy Friday!

It’s been a pretty good week for me on the internet! After posting my “How’s Your Hair?” web app on my blog yesterday I got some amazing reception to it that I had really not been expecting at all. It’s super awesome and also really humbling! I built this little app to be kind of a funny inside joke between me and my fellow curly-haired friends and it ended up going way beyond what I could have ever imagined. You can check out what the people said on Yahoo Tech as well as Huffington Post Tech.

But enough about me! Here are some awesome things I’ve been reading/watching/laughing at on the internet as of lately:

How to actually design for a female audience: Here’s a hint, don’t just paint it pink and make it smaller.

This made my inner user experience nerd really really happy – When a Designer Has Fun Making the Worst User Experience.

My HackerYou classmate, Danielle, shared this fantastic article about we should stop leaning and start building:

If you are willing to accept that technologists are the driving force of innovation, and thereby change, and that innovation encapsulates not only the immediacy of the tools and features created by said technology, but all that it touches, then you recognize the immense importance of this period we are currently experiencing. We’re living through a revolution of sorts.

You should also then recognize the real reason why women need to rise up and disrupt the tech industry. This is the opportunity to end the gender balance conversation—those who invent are in a position to lead. We need a more diverse set of world leaders, and we have the chance to build it from the ground up.

I’m really into super-simple ways to feel happier about your life, so of course I was really into this post by Sarah about creating a gratitude/to-do list hybrid notebook.

A love this split-screen take on period film costumes and modern day street style: Drama on the Streets.

Health Psychologist Kelly McGonigal’s TED Talk about How to Make Stress Your Friend, was SO INTERESTING. It blew my mind a little bit and then made me re-think my life a little.

Two of my good buddies, Nadine and Will recently moved to Iqualuit, Nunavut and they’re blogging about the experiences they’ve had so far.

And finally, if you need a dose of cuteness, 20 Puppies Cuddling Stuffed Animals should really do the trick.

The “How’s Your Hair?” Weather App is a Curly-Haired Gal’s BFF

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While I was in my front-end development course at HackerYou, we did a ton of projects at a rapid-fire rate. Some of the things I only worked on for only a day before I moved onto the next thing, so I didn’t really have a chance to take every single exercise to its full potential.

One exercise that I really wanted to come back to and I finally had some time to work with this week, was a weather app that I built using the Weather Underground API . As someone who has spent years of her life oscillating between embracing my curly hair to the point of abandoning my hair dryer versus beating my curly hair into submission with a high-power hair dryer and industrial strength flat iron – a lot of my good hair days depend on the weather conditions. Sometimes you can peer out your window on a sunny June morning and expect nothing but the best of hair days, only to step outside and realize that the humidity is at 95% and  all that work gone into heat styling your hair was wasted. You can literally watch your straightened locks shrivel up into frizzy corkscrews before your eyes, and if you didn’t bring an emergency hair elastic, well then, you’re shit out of luck.

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I’m over-dramatizing here for a reason: this app will take the guesswork of whether it’s going to be a good hair day or not out of the equation. Type in your city and province/state name (no initials, this app likes you to be super specific!), hit submit, and TA-DA, you get your answer! Easy-peasy. No more bad-hair days, because you’ll know in advance whether you need an umbrella or a hat with you on your daily commute. If you’re like me and sometimes do your hair-styling in the evening, the app will also let you know what the weather is calling for tomorrow. If it’s calling for rain or snow it’ll warn you not to bother straightening your hair tonight.

Check out the live version of the app here! 

There you have it, friends! Cheers to good hair days!

The Best Things I Found on the Internet – April 4

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It’s been a long time since I’ve done a best things on the internet post, but lately I’ve noticed myself saving a bunch of links in my Evernote of articles that I’ve read and really loved recently. So why not just share them with everyone like I used to?

A really great short read on the emergence of Experts vs Employees.

This is a really encouraging ready about the shift in leadership in teen girls. The quote below really sums it up for me.

…last fall Seventeen conducted a national survey of teen girls 13-19 to ask how they defined power. The results were stunning: Independence — which girls defined as “calling the shots” at work and “living life on your own terms” — accounted for 41 percent of what makes a girl powerful, they said. Philanthropy, social activism and “making a difference in the world” accounted for another 29 percent of what makes them feel powerful. Money, awards and fame, which are all the traditional ways Forbes or Fortune might track “power,” trailed with tiny percentages at the bottom of the pack.

The Real Life House of Oz blows my mind a little bit. So much whimsy!

Waste all of your time on Amusing Planet. So much cool stuff, so little time.

I love this super-simplified explanation of user experience and the web: content first. FINALLY.

How to be Rich Like Me by someone who is well known but not at all rich really puts in perspective that not everyone who is kind of famous is rich.

Anyone who knows me knows that I love airbnb. I love airbnb so much that since 2012 between myself and Ryan we’ve stayed in 9 different airbnb apartments while travelling and they’ve all been super awesome. I can’t wait to see what the founders of airbnb do next.

10 Ideas to Drum Up New Business is a great read for any freelancer, but also for my fellow HackerYou grads who are now out in the world freelancing/job-hunting!

Some posts of mine you may have missed: You Deserve to Do What You Love, 24 things I’ve learned by 24, Swing Time With Aerial Yoga

63 Days Later: I’m a Front-End Developer

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The moment that I signed on for a 9-week Front-End Development Bootcamp in Toronto, I knew I was about to make a pretty big change in my life. It took a whole lot of guts and a ton of motivation, but finally, after 63 days of over 40 hrs per week coding, learning, and making – I’m now a front-end developer.

You may have noticed that I freshened up the design of this website considerably. After learning so much about web development, I was really excited to completely overhaul my own site so that it fits my needs as a freelancer and developer. I considered returning to Halifax right after the course finished, but after really thinking about it a little more, I realized I would want at least another month in Toronto to really spend honing my skills and freelancing on some projects before heading back to work with my old agency as a front-end dev.

If you’re looking for a web developer/designer I’m finally available to take on projects for the next 6-7 weeks!

While I love the energy and excitement of working at an agency, freelancing allows me to really connect with my clients and get a better understanding of their needs for their website and their brand as a whole. Working one-on-one with a client can really help focus a project and also really speed it up when there’s no middle man doing the talking for you. I’ve been fairly lucky in the past in working with some pretty awesome entrepreneurs, and I definitely want to continue that trend.

What 9 weeks of learning web development taught me:

According to my time-tracker, the awesome software called WakaTime, I’ve logged 198 hours 54 minutes of coding since starting this course on January 27. This doesn’t include time I’ve spent googling how to do something, reading forums like Stack Overflow, digging my way through the WordPress Codex or looking at countless other resources – this is just time that is spent typing into my text-editor. Attending a bootcamp makes you a really good problem solver, if you weren’t already. When you’re short on time, and you’re a complete novice, you need to be able to figure things out.

In addition to being a champion “figure-it-outer” after completing HackerYou, I also feel far more ambitious and motivated to take on projects that I would have previously considered to be above my skill level. Over the last nine weeks I had to complete so many projects and exercises within such a short period of time, so I became more adventurous, didn’t consider my work to be precious, and tried to get comfortable with letting everything be experimental and a chance to try something completely different.

More than anything else, I’m really excited for what the future holds.

I’ve always liked my job as a designer. I liked to make things that were beautiful and made a bit of a difference in the world and maybe made someone smile. I liked to make things that people could hold in their hands and experience kinetically. But, there’s nothing quite as challenging and rewarding as building a website that just works. I’m happiest when I’m able to make something beautiful and make it work, it’s the most satisfying and joyful work I’ve ever done.

Being a web designer and developer is kind of similar to being a print designer, but also really different. It’s a whole other type of sensory experience when you’re visiting a website as opposed to reading through a brochure. I’m still making work that can make a difference in the world or bring a smile to someone’s face, but it’s the subtle ways we move through websites that I love. I love that a website doesn’t have to be linear like a book, I love that it can surprise you, I love that the technology is always evolving and you can always keep growing with the web.

It’s been a difficult and exhilarating 9 weeks – but now I’m doing what I love. And it’s awesome.