What is Responsive Web Design?
Responsive Web Design (RWD) is an approach of laying-out and coding a website such that the website provides an optimal viewing experience — ease of reading and navigation with a minimum of resizing, panning, and scrolling — across a wide range of devices (from desktop computer monitors to mobile phones).
The designer creating a Responsive Design should ensure that the website’s navigation elements, screen-layouts, text, images, audio/video players and other UI elements re-adjust themselves on a variety of devices. Thus, one need not spend extra time and money in creating and maintaining one “mobile-site version” and another “desktop-site version” of her website.
Now, having understood what is Responsive Web Design, let us understand why Responsive Design is important while creating websites.
Time & Money
The notion that making a responsive website is expensive is just that, a notion. The fact is, while the cost to make a responsive website is somewhat more than making a conventional website, but the expenses to duplicate a website for mobile and other devices gets completely eliminated, as a result – that cuts total development costs, significantly. In addition to that, a responsive design cuts the total ownership cost, by means of taking away the effort to maintain different versions of a website i.e. a “desktop-version”, a “mobile-version”. Thus, in the long term, investing in responsive website design is the smartest decision.
Internet traffic originating from mobile devices is rising exponentially each day. As more and more people get used to browsing the web through their smartphones and tablets, it is foolhardy for any website publisher to ignore responsive web design. The “One Site Fits All Devices” approach soon will be the norm.
While, content is king and discoverability of content are foremost success metrics, it is the user experience that enables visitors to consume content on any website through the device of their choice and preference, anytime. Thus, responsive web design is about providing the optimal user experience irrespective of whether they use a desktop computer, a smartphone, a tablet or a smart-TV.
Responsive Websites are agnostic to devices and their operating systems. A responsive web design ensures that users get the best and consistent experience of a website on any device of the user’s choice and preference – be that the iPhone, the iPad, the smartphones running the Android OS, or the Windows OS and several others. As a result website owners and content publishers can need not exercise the option to build versions of their website for every popular device platform which they expect their audience might be using.
The way ahead
Thus, rather than compartmentalizing website content into disparate, device-specific experiences, it is smarter to adopt the responsive web design approach. That’s not to say there isn’t a business case for separate sites geared toward specific devices; for example, if the user-goals for your mobile content-offering are limited in scope than its desktop equivalent, then serving different content to each might be the best approach.
But that kind of design-thinking does not have to be our default. Now more than ever, digital content is meant to be viewed on a spectrum of different experiences. Responsive web design offers the way forward.