What's this about responsive web design?

by Chris Maloney
Published 9-22-2013

We've mentioned responsive a few times on our website, and you may have seen it elsewhere on the web as well. So what is responsive web design anyway? You may know enough to say that responsive means your website shows up on your phone. That is correct, but responsive design goes further than that.

The Beginning of Mobile Web

When it became commonplace for people to pull up websites on their Blackberry phones, things were pretty ugly. Websites wouldn't display content correctly, they would be extremely difficult to use, or they would be completely broken. Clients with big wallets would pay developers to create a 2nd instance of the website known as the 'mobile version'. The developer would use scripting to determine if it was mobile device accessing the server. The user would either be given an option to use the mobile version, or they would just be forced to use it. And if you chose the mobile version and didn't like it, it was near impossible to get the option to chose again.

This went on for many years, and various sizes of phones were released. Wide monitors started showing up as well. Then tablets hit the market. The experience users would have trying to access websites would range from 'just ok' to downright terrifying. It was completely impractical to create a different version of the website for every device in existence, but something needed to be done.

At this point it was more common for designers and developers to build what we call 'static' layout websites. The width of the content and columns were assigned specific values. It was easier to keep control over the content and maintain design integrity this way. However, with all of these screens of varying sizes displaying websites, static layouts just couldn't cut it anymore.

Responsive Saves the Day

So in walks our hero, Responsive. A few select website builders had been using the basic building blocks of responsive all along. It was just called 'liquid' layout instead of 'static'. The content and columns were given percentage values instead of specific ones. This was obviously a bit more difficult and required more planning, and who on earth wants that? A ton of people based on Pew Internet's research.

But as I said, responsive web design isn't just about mobile phones and tablets. Responsive means the website looks appropriate and is easy to use on a cell phone, tablet, laptop, desktop, TV screen, projection screen, and on and on. People are accessing the web anywhere and everywhere these days. 21% of the internet is viewed by mobile users as of 2013 according to Smart Insights, and that number is double what it was in 2012. If your company's website still isn't accessible to mobile users, then you're losing customers.

What I find very disturbing is that we all know this from our own experiences... and yet I see multiple websites that are broken and non-responsive every single day on mobile. So for the sake of your mobile users out there, get started on a fresh new responsive site today. I would recommend avoiding a web company who 'claims' responsive design and doesn't even have a responsive website for their own website. Now would be a good time to check out our site on mobile, and get in touch.