More and more webmasters are updating their sites with a responsive design. Initially developed in the mid-2000s, it’s become the preferred format for creating mobile-friendly websites. So, what is a responsive web design, and why should you use it on your site?

Overview of Responsive Web Design

Responsive web design is a framework for building websites that load and function correctly on a variety of devices. It’s called a responsive design because the site’s layout and content ” respond” to the device on which the user views it. Responsive web design uses relative units of measurement, such as percentage and em, and CSS3 media queries to create a fluid layout that adjusts automatically depending on the device on which it’s viewed.

Traditional Web Design vs. Responsive

During the early days of the internet, websites were viewed almost exclusively on computer monitors, so fixed units of measurement like pixels (px) were used to define the size of elements like containers and images. It wasn’t until the advent of the modern-day smartphone and mobile broadband when a new method of web design was needed, thus paving the way for responsive web design.

Websites designed with fixed units of measurements don’t adjust for different devices. You may experience a positive viewing experience when accessing the site on a desktop computer and monitor, but accessing it on a smartphone may result in poor user experience. That is because the viewport — the framed space in your web browser that you can see — doesn’t adjust with websites designed with fixed units of measurements. All the content is still there, but you have to scroll horizontally to access it.

Images and text also don’t adjust on websites designed with fixed units of measurements. Even if a site’s text and pictures look OK on a desktop computer, you may have to zoom in or out to view them on a smartphone. Responsive web design solves this issue by using relative units of measurement that adjust automatically on different devices. And using the meta viewport tag, you can set up your responsive site so that it automatically scales with the user’s web browser.

The Rise of Mobile

Statistics show that nearly six in 10 internet users accessed the internet from a smartphone or tablet in 2017. With mobile internet usage now higher than desktop usage, you can no longer ignore mobile compatibility in your site’s design.

The fundamental purpose of responsive web design is to create a website that renders and functions appropriately on many different devices. Whether someone is visiting your site on a desktop computer, laptop, tablet, 4-inch smartphone or 7-inch “phablet,” they should see and access all the content with positive user experience.

Why Choose Responsive

Of course, there are other ways to create a mobile-friendly site, some of which including the use of a separate mobile domain and dynamically serving different HTML and CSS to mobile users. Of the three configurations, however, responsive comes out on top.

Using a separate mobile, such as mobi.yourwebsite.com, means you’ll have to work twice as hard to maintain. When you want to publish a new article, you must create it on both the desktop and mobile version of your site. Not only is this tedious, but search engines may struggle to properly index and rank your pages. Responsive web design uses a single URL, eliminating the need to juggle a separate mobile version of your site. You publish the article on your website, after which both desktop and mobile users can access it.

Dynamically serving different HTML and CSS mobile users also has its pitfalls. With this design framework, your site will try to identify the user’s web browser. If the user has a mobile browser, it will serve him or her the mobile version of your site’s HTML and CSS. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always present the correct version of your site. A desktop user may see the mobile version of your website, while a mobile user sees the desktop version.

Finally, responsive web design is the only Google-recommended method for creating a mobile-friendly website. If you want your site to rank high in Google’s mobile index, there’s no better choice than responsive web design. It provides the best user experience and fastest load times, which can help you achieve higher search rankings.

How to Adopt a Responsive Web Design

There are a few ways to make your site responsive, one of which is to change the design yourself. But unless you have experience with HTML and CSS, you should probably choose a different method. If your site runs a content management system (CMS) like WordPress, you can search for a responsive theme or template. There are thousands of responsive WordPress themes available at the official theme repository. These themes use the same relative units of measurement and CSS3 queries to achieve a high level of cross-compatibility with a variety of devices.

Another idea is to hire a professional web designer to create you a custom responsive design. You tell the designer what you want, and he or she will build you a responsive website according to your specifications. With a custom design, you can rest assured knowing that no other site looks exactly like yours.

Responsive web design isn’t the only way to create a mobile-friendly website As revealed here, though, it’s the most efficient framework. Responsive sites automatically adjust depending on the user’s device, so you don’t have to worry about mobile users encountering horizontal scrolling, text that’s too small to read, oversized images or other usability problems. For these reasons, you should adopt a responsive design for your website.

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