The first website to use responsive web design (RWD) was launched in 2001 and American web designer and author Ethan Marcotte coined the term ‘responsive web design’ in 2010.

Responsive web design is the solution to a problem that web designers struggled with for a long time. The problem arose because of the complexities involved in designing websites that looked the same, regardless of whether it was being viewed using a PC, laptop, tablet or smartphone and  regardless of the browser size used to view it. Furthermore,  as the variety of devices on the market increases in the future this problem is likely to get worse and worse. It would be simply impractical to create individual websites for each type of device so it was vital that an effective solution was devised.

Liquid web pages

Responsive web design (RWD) is that solution!

It is a method of designing websites that are able to occupy any size of browser. That happens regardless of the size or shape of the screen being used to view the web page.

It is also worth pointing out that, in recognition of the increasing use of mobile devices to view web pages, Google boosts the ranking of websites built using RWD websites when these searches are conducted using a mobile device.  This means that  all commercial websites really should be designed using RWD methodologies.

Thinking of updating to a responsive website?

What makes RWD websites able to respond to different browser sizes is that media queries are used to find out what type of device is accessing the web page and the size of its screen. RWD uses relative (percentage) sizing rather than fixed (pixels or points) sizing to lay out all ‘on page’ elements including images, appropriately.

More and more people are access the web using mobiles and tablets as well as other Internet enabled devices such as Internet enabled TVs and games consoles. So,  if your website does not resolve appropriately on these devices you can potentially lose customers, clients and money.

So it is clear that RWD needs to be integrated into the design of your website whether you are updating your existing site or developing a new one.

Important considerations

Here are some things you should consider before you commission your RWD website:

Time – websites designed using RWD methodologies may require more development time and take longer to be completed as a consequence

Cost – as a responsive site involves more development time there will be a small but significant difference in costs associated with this work, compared to non-RWD alternatives;

Design elements – your web developer will be able to advise you about which design elements you should include on your mobile website, compared to your regular website. This is particularly important as the amount of available screen space on many mobile devices is limited. This is particularly relevant to the design and placement of navigation buttons, tick boxes and many other on-screen elements;

Download speeds – large images on the mobile version of your website can affect download speeds. Download speed is a Google ranking factor (faster is better) and slow loading websites can drive visitors away from your website long before your website pages have loaded completely.;

Website apps – website apps are free downloadable programs for your mobile device which make it easier to access websites on your phone or tablet. They are an optional, but worthwhile, addition to your online offering;

RWD, and mobile apps, appear to be the future of web design and as so many people access the web from such a wide variety of devices, as well as from PCs and laptops, there is a vital need to ensure that you are not losing business because your website isn’t compatible with the devices people are viewing it on.