What Is this “Responsive Web Design” Everyone Keeps Talking About?

You want your website to work on all the mobile devices out there.

21 Jan What Is this “Responsive Web Design” Everyone Keeps Talking About?

It’s a nuisance trying to keep up with all the tech buzzwords buzzing around. Not just what they mean, but also whether they’re worth investigating or merely attached to another inconsequential passing fad.

“Responsive web design” is a ubiquitous term these days. And this one’s a keeper. In fact, get on board or perish. Not to sound too dramatic or alarmist or anything.


Responsive web design refers to designing and developing websites to display attractively and functionally on all the different types of mobile devices, including tablets, PDAs, and smartphones, from their many manufacturers, in addition to desktops and laptops.

Mobile Device Trends

About three-quarters of cell phone owners now have smartphones. According to Nielsen’s U.S. Digital Consumer Report from early 2014, the average American now owns four digital devices and spends 60 hours per week using them; about half of smartphone users visit social media sites on them daily and more than 80 percent of mobile users shop via their devices.

And the numbers are only climbing.

The Problem

What looks good and works well on large computer screens doesn’t naturally translate to the smaller screens of mobile devices, with their varying sizes, orientations, resolutions, download speeds, etc. If users can’t easily load, view, navigate, and operate a site, they quickly get fed up and leave it.

One solution is to build separate versions of sites for different devices, different brands, and maybe even different models. Build versions for computers, versions for iPhones, versions for Blackberries, versions for Samsung Galaxies, versions for Kindles, and so on.

Obviously, this isn’t particularly practical, efficient, or cost-effective, though.

The Solution

You guessed it: Responsive web design is the better solution.

This refers to a fluid design and development process in which components adapt and adjust—respond, if you will—to the type of device they’re loading on. Basically, components automatically change their layout, resize, reposition, and otherwise reconfigure based on the needs of the display platform.

Given the rapidly rising use of mobile devices for researching and purchasing, and the ever-growing variety of mobile tech available, responsive web design (which is already considered a business imperative) is only going to become more important. And its techniques have been greatly improving recently, as they will certainly continue to do.