Mobile and tablet web traffic has been on the rise, and it’s not slowing down anytime soon. Users expect a tailored, effortless experience based on their device of choice — that’s where responsive design (RWD) comes in. You may have heard of this term before and wondered what it means or why it’s important. Let’s dive deeper.

What is responsive design?

Responsive web design is an approach to digital web design that makes your website, and its pages, able to adapt and display (or render) on any device. Pages designed with RWD are able to deliver the best experience for users, regardless of whether those users are accessing the site using a desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone.

Why responsive web design is important

Gone are the days when people accessed websites solely from their home desktop computer. More than half of people now use a mobile device as their primary method of internet access. This means, if you’re not optimizing their experience on your website for all devices, you’re potentially losing them as a customer.

Unresponsive websites require the user to put in a lot of work to find the information they want. They may have to read tiny text, zoom in and zoom out dozens of times to navigate their way around your page, or they may have issues filling out or submitting forms.

If something is too hard to access on your site, they’ll likely go find it on someone else’s.

How does responsive web design work?

Think of your screen as a container, broken up into content areas. When the size of the screen changes, the content areas will adjust to fit the new size of the container, while staying in appropriate order. The content areas are in a different shape, but all of the content still be there.

An example:

A recent product of our own company, 535media, The Neighborhood News Network recently relaunched its platform website with responsive website design. The examples below showcase how the new website renders on smaller mobile devices and larger screen computers.

As you can see in the image above, the large screen version of the website utilizes more of the screen horizontally. In this screen size, the main navigation has enough space to grow as new pages are created. This screen size also utilizes a large display video and more of the screen with content.
In this mobile view, we have much less real estate to display the same content on each page. This forces the site to render in a more vertical presentation. Creating a responsive menu that hides off-screen until needed, like this example, is just one method of creating a responsive design.

RWD and where your website ranks within search results

Having a responsive website also improves how your website is found through search engines like Google. Google uses an algorithm that determines the rankings of websites, then displays those results in order of what it found to be most relevant to your search. A responsive website is just one of many factors used within this algorithm. Websites that aren’t responsive are typically ranked poorly and therefore won’t be prioritized among the top search results. Learn more about how to improve your search rankings.

The next time you visit a website that isn’t fully functional on your phone, consider how frustrating that can feel. Now, how do you feel about the brand or product after an experience like that? In today’s digital world, it is not enough for your website to only function on larger-screen devices. Your users are interacting with your website through tablets, laptops, phones and even TVs.

Responsive web design creates the best user experience for your audience, thus driving results for your business.