What is Responsive Web Design

What is responsive web design?

We live in an online, digital world. Most of us spend a large portion of every day online, whether it’s working, socializing, researching, planning or playing. With the ever-increasing proliferation of smartphones, tablets and other hand-held devices, we are taking our online activities off of the computer and on the go. What that means for today’s web designers is that creating for the web has become more of a challenge than ever before. Enter responsive web design. Responsive web design is design that makes websites adaptable so that they can be properly and optimally displayed on screens of varying sizes and layouts. By using scalable images and adjustable layouts, today’s web designers are able to create content that is very user-friendly regardless of whether it is viewed on a desktop, a laptop, a tablet, a phone or any other device.

In essence, then, responsive web design is the term given to the practice of designing a website that the layout morphs and changes to be seen to its best advantage on any device, wheter it is a mobile phone, tablet, or computer. And it’s not just about the size of the screen, either. Because today’s smartphones and tablets allow for content to be viewed both horizontally and vertically, there is need for a way to make the content viewable in both formats. With responsive web design, it doesn’t matter what device you use to go online; the content will always look the same. The term was first coined by the creator of responsive web design, Ethan Marcotte. 

Responsive design
Responsive web design

There are essentially three main aspects to responsive web design:

Flexible layouts

This is the first element in responsive web design. A flexible layout is one that responds as the width of the browser changes so the site is always displayed properly. As the width of the browser fluctuates, the content is resized and repositioned by fluid grids. 

Flexible images

Flexible images are another important aspect of responsive web design. To do this, designers can either resize the image or dynamically crop the image – or both. By using both methods together, the image will resize itself automatically when it is detected to be below a specific size. That way, regardless of the size on which the images are being viewed, the content always looks the way it was intended to be seen. 

Media queries

By using media queries, designers can create multiple layouts derived from the same content. A designed could, therefore, create one style sheet for displaying the content on a large display and another styles sheet for display on a variety of mobile device screen sizes. 

The importance of responsive web design

When it comes to designing a website for a business, the importance of responsive website design cannot be overstated. Neglecting to incorporate responsive web design elements into your site design will quickly put you at the bottom of the heap, with your competition piling on top of you. Responsive web design is aimed at making it easy and straightforward to view a website on any size screen. It’s important to ensure that all potential problems associated with viewing content on different screen resolutions are attended to before the site is launched, otherwise you will lose potential customers who want to view your content on a mobile device. And since more and more people every day are going online from the palm of their hands, that can spell disaster for a burgeoning business. 

Technology is changing around us all the time. Almost every day, new products and devices are being introduced into the market and there will always be people who have to have the latest and greatest electronic gadgets. The problem to which that gives is that there is a never-ended need for web developers to create content that can keep up with the evolving nature of the devices on which we view that content. Responsive web design is the answer to that problem. 

The fact that we can now view Internet content from just about anywhere is a blessing for web users on the go, but a curse for web designers. Fortunately, responsive web design has created a way for designers to keep up and keep creating dynamic web content that they can be confident knowing will be viewed the way it should be seen, regardless of the device on which it is accessed.