The term “responsive web design” refers to websites that change and adapt their appearance for optimum viewing on all screen sizes, tablets, smartphones, ipods, kindles along with desktop and laptop computer screens. Occasionally, in the digital arts industry, it is called “fluid design”, “adaptive website design” or “RWD”. Unresponsive websites do not change to fit different screen sizes, which means they can be difficult to navigate and look at on smaller devices.
Desktop sales have been surpassed by mobile sales already, and most digital media education sources predict that mobile web use will overtake desktop use by 2014. Hence, it only seems logical that desktop search will be overtaken by mobile search soon as well. Sixty percent of web users say that they would be more inclined to buy from mobile optimized websites. Therefore, businesses that depend on SEO would have a lot of sense to start making the move towards mobile friendly sites, and responsive site designs specifically. Especially as the new Google algorithm updates now frown upon separate mobile only sites. Such as those with a.mobi in the url. More and more, new websites are built using responsive design methods to eradicate the requirement for standalone mobile websites. Also, this decision dramatically improves the user experience. This leads to more customer interaction and sales, as prospective customers are not alienated by tiny text and difficult navigation.
To make responsive designs work, a media query is used to determine the screen size that the site is being accessed from. The script can detect all devices, whether they are tablets, laptops or smartphones. Then, it uses CSS to show the website in a suitable format. Images can be re-sized accordingly to fit on screens that are smaller. The text is made bigger and the menus can switch to a variety of different dropdown formats, as opposed to the mostly standard horizontal display.
The benefits of using this kind of design, compared to setting up a mobile version of your website that is completely separate from your original site, are obvious. Whenever you update your website, it will updated for every device and display correctly on every screen. You only have to update in one location, where with a separate mobile site would require a separate location requiring updating as well. Often, your websites will be accessed from a tablet. If you have a two separate sites, a mobile and a desktop version, it is anybodies guess which version of the site tablet users will be seeing. With responsive design you get to control (mostly) what every screen size will be viewing.
Several companies provide both fluid design and mobile design for websites. However, RWD methods are constantly improving, so there appears little point in having a standalone mobile website. The only time when you might want a separate site, would be if you prefer to advertise differently to laptop or desktop users, compared to how you would advertise
to mobile users. For instance, a fast food company might wish to target individuals on the go with an instant special offer, but display their upcoming promotions and menu to laptop users. Nonetheless, in many cases, a website will cater to all users in an identical manner, thus a responsive design is the preferred option.
In the fast approaching future, all websites should have responsive designs, as users will come to expect it. Therefore, in a couple of years, businesses that build unresponsive websites will have to pay for a new site to make up to their users the lack in their website. Consequently, before starting any new website design projects, it would be advisable to learn more about the cost and advantages of adaptive designs.