What is responsive web design, and why do you need it?

By Roman Berezhnoi August 13, 2018 2.81K views

What is responsive web design, and why do you need it?

Since 2016, Google has been indexing websites based on mobile sites (with responsive web design) rather than desktop sites. This process known as mobile-first indexing. 

There was a time that websites had to be built separately for mobile or desktop users. While it was easier for developers to work this way, there were various demerits to this setup. For starters, there were instances when different sites had to be built for different mobile devices. The costs that came with building and maintaining multiple sites were simply ridiculous.

Thankfully those days are way behind us now. Responsive web design has totally revolutionized how web developers create sites today. Through this new approach, websites are designed to offer optimal viewing experience for all devices both mobile and desktop.

What does the term “responsive web design” mean?

Responsive Web Design is a web page design which ensures that the site displays correctly on all devices and adjusts dynamically to any browser’s window. It remains the best technology compared to adaptive web design in which, the same version a product must be created separately for mobile phones and desktops.

In other words, the term responsive Web design refers to websites that fit automatically every screen and run well regardless of the type of device used.

How was “Responsive Web Design” Adopted?

After realizing that the environment of mobile devices was growing in terms of browsers, screen orientations and sizes, Ethan Marcotte, came up with the responsive design idea. He proposed that websites should be designed flexibly with a fluid layout that can easily adapt to any device. Ethan’s concept was really approved and has, therefore, been embraced by developers all over the world. Even search engines like Google now favour websites with a responsive design that makes them mobile friendly.

Principles in Responsive Web Design

Principles in Responsive Web Design

1. Grids Should Be Flexible

The heart of responsive design lies in having a fluid grid layout. This layout capitalizes on relative sizing that fits web content to any screen size as appropriate. Relative sizing here means that none of the static grid frameworks is implemented. Developers instead position the content using CSS. Therefore, traditional design principles that were pixel-based are abandoned in favour of modern percentages. The pixel-based design isn’t responsive in the sense that one pixel on one person’s design may be ten pixels on another person’s device. However, by basing the layout on percentages, any page will adjust to any size relative to the screen being used.

2. Breakpoints Are Used

Breakpoints are also called media queries. They are used to execute different styles according to the capabilities of the user’s device. It allows a website to detect the device being used and styles the page appropriately. Media queries thus control the height, width, device height, aspect ratio and orientation among many other factors.

3. The Flexibility of Images and Media Is Upheld

By maintaining this flexibility, photos and other media on your site can adapt and load differently based on what device the user has. This is achieved by using CSS overflow or scaling. This flexibility allows images to shrink or expand dynamically so that they fit appropriately into their containers.

4. Progressive Enhancement

The progressive enhancement principle focuses on the most important functionalities of a website or web apps. It encourages developers to start by laying the basic elements first, so that the website can be accessible, even from the simplest and most basic browser. Once this is achieved, more advanced features, styles, and interactivities can then be added to the site gradually, using CSS, JavaScript or JavaScript Frameworks, SVG Flash and the like.

5. Designing for mobile devices from the earliest stages (Mobile first)

As opposed to the common practice, This approach prioritizes the mobile side of websites and web applications. Hence the term “mobile first”. In other words, “mobile first” indicates that developers should Always create the mobile version of their products first, and definitely, build it up for desktops.

6. The modular page grid

The modular page grid is an invisible “skeleton” of the design, a system of horizontal and vertical guides that help orient and align the individual elements of the composition. To generate a modular grid, commonly used so-called CSS-frameworks (like Bootstrap) are created to simplify the work of the page maker, the speed of development and eliminate the maximum possible number of layout errors.

Benefits of Having A Responsive Website

A survey made by “pew research center” in May 2017 showed that about six-in-ten U.S. adults (58%) get news on a mobile device, while only  39% get their news on a desktop or laptop computer. Moreover, in April 2018 Google announced a mobile-first index. These are facts which demonstrate how mobile ownership has blossomed greatly recently, outpacing both combined desktops and laptops. This simply means that all businesses that start increasing their mobile presence will surely drive more traffic to their sites and as a result initiate long-term growth.

Percentage of all global web pages served to mobile phones from 2009 to 2018
This statistic presents the share of mobile phone website traffic worldwide. In 2018, 52.2 percent of all website traffic worldwide was generated through mobile phones, up from 50.3 percent in the previous year. Mobile currently accounts for half of all global web pages served. As of February 2017, mobile accounts for 65.1 percent of all web traffic in Asia and for 59.5 percent of all web traffic in Africa. Due to the strong growth of the smartphone market in recent years, this is no surprise, especially as mobile internet often provides a more viable online connection in regions that lack the infrastructure and money for traditional and more expensive landline connections. © www.statista.com





Advantages of responsive web design

A responsive design meets the requirements of the search algorithms and as a matter of fact, increases the probability for the site to be displayed in the first place when a search query is entered on google. Building a Responsive Website, that optimized for mobile devices means getting more visitors, having fast loading pages with all included images and videos, and cutting more expenses, as no additional versions of the site will be created for mobile phones.

It maximizes the Users Experience and increases their confidence in the site, it also prevents from creating duplicate content while simplifying the SEO-optimization process.

In a word, Responsive Design is the revolution that’s been long waited for in the front-end web development field. However, even though developing responsive websites is an ideal thing, it is important not to overlook its drawbacks.

Disadvantages of responsive website design

One of the major drawbacks of Responsive Web Design is the complexity and difficulty in creating adaptive virtual projects. In addition to that, front-end developers see their workload increase with time, as new devices with different screen resolutions are release every year.  Developers would have to perform many tests, make sure that the page loading process is not slowed down, and again ensure that the site display and runs smoothly on every single device. All of the above-mentioned steps are indeed time-consuming and in this regard considered as disadvantages.


A quick check through your traffic will reveal that a huge number of visitors browse through your site on mobile devices. Your website must, therefore, be responsive enough to offer these users the best experience possible. This will drive up sales and generate new leads for your business from mobile devices.
Well, don’t hesitate, you should contact web expers to get web development consulting services.

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