What is Responsive Web Design and Why Do I Need It?

Responsive web design is designing a website on a fluid foundation, with flexible content, utilizing layout based on proportions — all for the purpose of providing the optimal viewing experience across a wide range of devices. In layman’s terms, your website will morph to provide the best user experience on whatever device is being used to access it — from an iPhone to widescreen desktop.

Why is responsive better than a separate mobile site?

Having a separate mobile site for handheld users was a great idea before the smart device explosion. A site targeted and optimized for a specific user experience on mobile devices provided very consistent results. However, the game has changed, and targeting only handheld device is no longer a reliable strategy. There are hundreds of different screen sizes between handheld and desktop, and tailoring a site to only a few is very shortsighted.

In addition to screen-size issues, separate mobile sites often have a completely separate design and content base than your desktop website. Suddenly you find yourself budgeting for two websites and managing content in two content-management systems.

Responsive websites uses a single content base, CMS, and overall design, and can provide an optimized experience across all devices. A properly designed and developed responsive website shouldn’t “break” or look funky on any modern device.

How can responsive design be optimized for so many devices?

It’s easier than you might think. When beginning a new responsive web design, it’s best practice to gather your content, calls to action, and goals and start ranking their importance. After this prioritization is completed, start with the mobile-sized design. The mobile design lets you digest how the most important content is presented and prioritized to the consumer. It’s the most condensed and simplified view of the website, so a perfect place to start before flushing out the larger layouts.

Once a mobile design is agreed upon, the important content is already identified, and presentation is just enhanced as we work our way up from mobile to desktop screens.


The Data

If you aren’t convinced yet about the benefits of responsive design, maybe some data might sway your decision:

  • As of early 2014, Internet usage on mobile devices (including tablets) has surpassed desktop usage.*
  • 61% percent of consumers use their mobile devices to access the Internet.*
  • 77% percent of executives research products and services on mobile devices.*

This is just a small sample of the overwhelming amount of data supporting the need for a mobile strategy for your website. Having a strategy in place will help you retain and increase market share and provide a competitive advantage.

In closing, think of the last time you opened an email on a mobile device and clicked through to the website, only to be presented with a nonfunctional or desktop-sized website that was virtually impossible to interact with. Would you want to responsible for that travesty of a user experience?

*Data from http://searchenginewatch.com/article/2353616/Mobile-Now-Exceeds-PC-The-Biggest-Shift-Since-the-Internet-Began