September 20, 2011

Taking a Closer Look at Responsive Images

Critics of responsive web design argue that the responsive approach results in mobile devices being served unnecessary content, particularly large images optimized for desktop computers. In most cases I agree that this is a problem. It makes more sense to serve small images to a device with a small screen so that bandwidth is conserved. Luckily, Filament Group has found an elegant solution to this problem with their Responsive Images project, but my question is:

Can we assume that a user with a small screen will always want to see a small (mobile optimized) image? One great feature of a touch screen is that you can pinch and zoom. Suppose the user wanted to zoom in on an image for a closer look? This would be pointless if the image is already being displayed at or near 100%. Maybe I’m splitting hairs here, but I have found it frustrating that some responsive sites disable zooming all-together. Am I weird for wanting to zoom in?