The Importance of Responsive Web Design: Part 1


Our world is more connected today than ever before. The Web can be accessed from all types of different devices, with even more yet to be imagined. Yesterday was the Internet of Things Day, a day dedicated to the advancing trend of the Internet (and, by extension, the World Wide Web) being accessible and integrated into our everyday world. While mobile apps may be the “in” thing right now, the Web has been around for far longer, and isn’t limited to the walled gardens of Apple, Google, Microsoft, and so on. The Web was designed to be device-agnostic, viewable on as many devices, and as many screen dimensions, as possible.

What makes this possible today? The answer: Responsive Web Design.

What is Responsive Web Design?

Responsive Web Design is a term that was coined by Ethan Marcotte, a designer/developer, in his landmark article on A List Apart, Responsive Web Design way back in 2010.

According to Wikipedia:

Responsive web design (RWD) is an approach to web design aimed at crafting sites to provide an optimal viewing experience—easy 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 basic building blocks to a responsive web design are:

  • Fluid grids (a layout that adapts based on screen size, for example)
  • Flexible images (images that expand or are replaced based on the viewport, for example)
  • Media queries (code that manipulates the elements on the screen, allowing for the two above things)

While I’ve already probably become too technical for the average reader, know this: if you want to have a website for your organization, then by default you should seek out someone who can build it for you using the elements of Responsive Web Design. If your website can’t adapt to the device that your customers are accessing it on, and things appear broken, the site won’t load, and so on, that is going to cost you customers and money due to a frustrating user experience. Your typical customer, citizen, user, or whomever your website’s market caters to is going to be viewing your website on a variety of different media—some on desktop computers with gigabit Internet, others on a several years old iPhone 4 with spotty 3G. While you can’t control all of the experience for your audience when it comes to your online presence, you can control how your site is built.

And the only solution that can cover all of your bases is to make sure your website utilizes Responsive Web Design.

To be continued…

Stay tuned for the next part of the Responsive Web Design series, where I will go into more detail on ways you can make sure your site can best reach your audience.