What Is Responsive Web Design?

Posted April 15, 2013 by   in Responsive Web Design, Web Design, Web Design Strategy


If you’re within the web design community, you’ve probably heard the latest buzz phrase “Responsive Web Design,” but if you’re not actively involved within the community you may be wondering what it is and how it can help your business. Before diving too deeply into that answer, I’d like to take you through a brief history of the Internet, and how we’ve reached Responsive Web Design as a solution.

A Brief History Lesson

In the not so distant past, there were only a handful of ways your website viewers could access your website. They would either view your website on their desktop, laptop, or an early model of a smartphone. That being said, designers concluded that your viewers would either be viewing your website on a decently large sized screen, or a very small sized screen.

With the two differences in mind web designers and developers decided the best solution to provide an optimized experience for “all” users was to create two different websites with entirely different content and experiences. A mobile website was designed and developed, and a desktop website was designed and developed.

At the time, this solution seemed to make the most sense. Designers assumed that mobile users would only need to access a certain scope of content from the website and delivered that content to provide an “optimized” mobile experience. On the other end, desktop users would require access to all of the website’s information, so those users received all of the website’s information.

This solution seemed to provide the best outcome for everyone, but there are two major flaws with this approach in today’s ever expanding Internet.

Mobile Users Want All the Content

Though designers concluded that mobile users only needed a certain amount of information from the main website, the fact of the matter is that mobile users use their phones to access your website for non “on the go” purposes. This renders the assumption that mobile users only need a limited amount of information for their on the go needs incorrect.

Yes, there are specific instances of when this “mobile content” is relevant. However, how many times have you clicked the “Full Site” link in the footer of a mobile site because you were frustrated about not finding the information you were looking for? I assure you that you are not the only mobile user to embrace that little link at the bottom, and you most certainly won’t be the last.

The Number of Screen Sizes Is Expanding

Between the years 2007 and 2010, there were only a handful of Android devices, Blackberries, and the iPhone that were able to browse the Internet via WiFi or a mobile network. However, the release of the Apple iPad sparked a revolution in the way users are browsing the Internet. Gone are the days of knowing that a user’s screen was either the size of a mobile phone or a desktop computer monitor.

The number of devices, and subsequently screen sizes, that are now able to access the Internet is increasing by the month. These devices are no longer limited to desktops, laptops, tablets, or phones, but can also include smart TVs, refrigerator doors, and even cars. There is no way to predict the development of technology, but we can be certain of this: the screen sizes of Internet accessing devices will continue to expand.

The Solution? Responsive Web Design

Here’s the big reveal, and the answer you’ve been waiting for. Responsive Web Design solves both of these problems and delivers a website that is optimized for every devices, no matter the screen size, with the site’s content in its entirety.

With enhancements in technology, web designers and developers are now able to comfortably nest content into every screen size to enhance the experience for every device size. No more pinching, zooming, or scrolling side ways to read a paragraph of text on your company’s web site. We can safely and effectively ensure that your smart TV, desktop, laptop, smartphone, tablet, and even refrigerator door users receive a web experience catered to the needs on their device without sacrificing the precious content you’ve worked so hard to compile.

Conclusion

There is no telling where the Internet will be nested in the distant or even near future. With developments by Google, we may even see the Internet begin to gravitate towards glasses or contact lenses. With any great amount of growth, there are going to be growing pains; however, we have the ability to optimize your website for most known and future Internet accessing devices. Responsive Web Design isn’t necessarily future-proofing your website, but it’s pretty darned close.