What is Responsive Design?

By Alli Summerford
July 10, 2013

device-screensWe are often asked about creating mobile sites. Our clients are not sure if they need one, and if they do, how to go about making it happen. Until recently, it was normal to have a standard website and a separate mobile site, often with duplicate content. Recently, however, the thinking has changed. And, when I say “thinking,” I mean Google has made an official recommendation on the subject.

Mashable has called 2013 the Year of Responsive Design – and with good reason. As mentioned above, Google made its preferences clear, and responsive design wins. Larry Page, Google’s CEO, made a statement on January 22nd of this year during their Q4 earnings conference call emphasizing that sites should not be designed specifically for mobile. These recommendations by Google give us a glimpse into how their ranking algorithms reward and penalize sites. It is clear that Google intends to reward sites that provide an improved user experience with one, responsive site. See Google’s recommendation here, with their preference indicated in bold type.

But what is “responsive web design?” This is a relatively new approach, the name having only been coined as recently as May 2010. What this means to you, the website owner, is that a website built using responsive design will adapt itself to the device of the user (from smartphone to desktop). This built in flexibility obviates the need for a separate, mobile website. As a site owner, this is good news all around. It mean no more creating and maintaining two sites and all the time and money that goes into that duplicated effort. In this type of setup, CSS is used to adapt the layout of the page based on the device.

As the use of tablets increases, traditional desktop sales decrease, and everyone has a smartphone in their pocket, it becomes increasingly important to consider not just being online, but how it is that your customers and clients access and use your site. If you have an older website, this is a great time to upgrade. Not only can you get a fresh look, but with responsive web design you can create a site that delivers your message effectively, regardless of the devise used.