Responsive web design involves creating a flexible system that can adapt to information that your site receives from a visitor's web browser regarding its resolution, operating system, and more. It's been popular within the past few years because it allows companies to create single sites that work well with both mobile and desktop platforms, and because it works with several different mobile screen resolutions as well. Here are the basics of what Responsive Design can, and can't, do for you.

The Basics of Responsive Design

What Responsive Can Do:

  • Improve your search engine ranking. Google is becoming increasingly more biased toward sites that have a responsive set of web parameters over the choice of a mobile site with one-size-fits all resolution choice. That's good news if you're just starting a site right now, because it means you can come out of the gate with more momentum than older sites that may still be relying on that clunky m.domain version of their homepage.
  • Cut down on your development time in the long run. In the short term, responsive designs take more time to develop up front, but in the long run, it should be easier to make corrections, changes, and upgrades to a site that takes several different platform experiences into account. A responsive site can make it simple to add features like video players and other widgets as well, with tight control over margins and content tables across different viewing dimensions.
  • Get more traffic, thanks to your investment into responsive design over a mobile domain. One of the issues with a mobile domain is that it is usually built to be viewed on a smartphone, which was great a few years ago, but smartphone screens are getting bigger, and tablets are on the rise. With a responsive site you are tapping into a growing demographic of users that have both larger, and more powerful mobile devices capable of handling more complex presentations. Just remember to keep it mobile-friendly, and in fact, design for mobile first.
The Basics of Responsive Design

What Responsive Design Can't Do:

  • The work for you. When it comes to testing your responsive site and ensuring that everything looks great, and isn't broken, on a variety of different resolutions, responsive sites aren't quite there as far as ensuring that images won't get squashed, broken, or otherwise warped in translation. You still need to check all of your work on different screens; using mobile devices for these tests is always the recommended method, over just resizing your browser and thinking that gives you a good idea.
  • Retrofit a site. If your site doesn't already have responsive design, you need to start over if you want to get responsive. That can be expensive and time consuming if you've already got a large site up and running, but now might be the time to start regardless. Responsive design isn't going anywhere, and it's safe to say that it will continue to trend throughout the decade.