Responsive Website Design is the coding of a website such that the website size and layout changes to suit the device on which it is being viewed. This provides ease of reading, navigation with a minimum of resizing, panning and scrolling. It operates across a wide range of devices from desktop computers to tablets to mobile phones.

Before the proliferation of mobile devices, web designers had only one primary challenge to deal with and that was to keep the same look and feel of websites on various desktop computer browsers. Smartphones and tablets have changed the way we use the internet, so the design of websites has turned toward creating easy operation for everybody using any size device by creating responsive websites.

Responsive DesignInteracting with websites on smartphones and tablets is not the same as the operation of using desktop computers. Factors such as Click versus Touch, Screen-size, Pixel-resolution, support for Adobe’s Flash technology, optimized markup and many more have become crucial considerations when creating a responsive website.

Responsive websites are not built separately. When websites are developed the site is made to accomodate various device sizes by changing the size of some elements and moving sections of the site, one under another for example, rather than leaving them side by side. The intention is to create a site which will be easy to use for most devices. It’s not even about screen size so much anymore as it is about the idea that devices can view websites, and how the user will interact with that site based on the proper design we set up for it.

In general, the web is being viewed more and more on different devices today. It’s not just about smartphones anymore. Consider those small notebook computers, iPads and other tablets, video game devices and, who knows what in the future.

While you may not think this is applicable to you now, for the near future it is only prudent to consider a mobile responsive site as a way to ‘future proof’ your new website investment. Here are some reasons for that:

Right now 50% of searches are mobile and that number is growing. This is a well-known statistic in the industry, and if you have a product-based or location-based business, there are more stats you should check out from the Microsoft published research results, which were shared in the SEOmoz February, 2013 newsletter issue. Also in that newsletter was a link to an article stating that even using the name of a location or city in a mobile ad can increase the likelihood of that ad being clicked on by 200%.

According to a Morgan Stanley Research graph projecting mobile versus desktop Internet usage (as shared by Jesse Friedman at WP Summit 2013 via an infographic on responsive design trends), sometime in 2013 (that’s now at the time of writing this post), we are going to see mobile surpass desktop viewing of sites. That’s right, we’re not waiting for our jetpacks or flying cars for this to happen. Mobile viewers (not just searchers) are going to be your Christmas present this year. Get ready for it all you e-commerce site owners!

“My Site Looks Fine on Mobile Devices Without Responsive Design.”

Ahhh! It’s not about the way it looks. Remember that famous quote by Steve Jobs, “Design is how it works”? Well that applies to a website as much as it applies to a MacBook or iPhone. Why make it any harder than necessary for your customers to get to your content ASAP?

It is no longer true to say “some things I just won’t do on my phone”. Your customers used to say things like this because material was too hard to read, the pages wouldn’t load properly or the site required the use of my mouse. People used say “I will just not bother on a mobile device – I will wait until I can be at my desktop” – not any more! So, based on the statistics above, if most people are like you and me and don’t like wasting their time, that would be 50% of people leaving your site if it’s not responsive. Imagine the bounce rate that would result, the effect on your SEO and the potential loss of sales leads! This is just a reality in today’s tablet, Xbox, iPhone, Android market.

You will notice that Gmail, Facebook, Skype, Yelp and many other sites that we used to use on our desktops have now all made their sites easy for us to use on smaller screens. Thanks to their realization that our fingers are too fat for non-responsive sites, we can now do things that used to be simple, but hard on smaller devices (like uploading photos or videos). The use of these new easy-to-use-on-mobile sites has a lot to do with the way the design fits well in our palms, and allows us to use our fingers and not have to zoom in to perform any task.