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January 28, 2015

What is Responsive Web Design?

RWD is a method (endorsed by Google late 2012) of building websites so that they can be viewed optimally, regardless of the viewing device’s screen size. If implemented correctly, the user experience will remain the same across all screen sizes, consequently helping to boost sales, visits, loyalty and engagement. Considering the growing trend of mobile and tablet usage, it’s no surprise that RWD is fast becoming the standard by which web sites are being developed.

The key challenge behind RWD is one of design: how to seamlessly adapt to the end-user needs, as well as the viewing screen’s capabilities, without losing your website’s primary messaging or intent. Let’s suppose, for example, that a mobile user will be viewing your site. Obviously he/she will be doing this on a much smaller screen than presumably the majority of your target audience would be using. Taking the user’s initial needs into account doesn’t simply mean adapting your content to the screen size. It also means anticipating what that mobile user will require first when visiting your site and then laying out the content accordingly. At the same time, it shouldn’t be assumed that your end-user might not eventually need access to all site information simply because they are on a mobile device. A mobile device might be this user’s primary source of viewing, so this first time experience may be your only way of capturing and engaging them.

On the client side, there are several value-added benefits created by adhering to responsive web design standards. The first that comes to mind is cost. Although there are design and development costs associated with RWD, in the long run it will still be more cost effective than creating multiple redundant stand-alone mobile or tablet sites - and there will be time savings because it will be easier to manage and maintain.

Another interesting, and currently underutilized, benefit of RWD is the ability to harness the SEO value of mobile and tablet viewing and deliver better results for your primary website. How? First, let’s take a step back and see how SEO used to work

Traditionally you can boil it down to three areas:

Content – the information on your site, be it visible to the user or just search engines.

Code – the codebase behind your site.

Linking – traditionally the inbound links to your site from external sites, but social linking, more and more, as well.

If you had to create a standalone mobile website you’re also, in effect, creating the need to optimize another standalone web site. Conversely, all the effort invested into properly building out the SEO capabilities of your primary website won’t improve the rankings of your mobile website. The time and effort needed to start from scratch with your linking and content would be prohibitive. With Responsive Web Design, the effort you put in to search engine optimization is pooled on one site, reducing costs and improving the long term search performance in a more permanent fashion.

Look around you - mobile phone and tablets are here to stay; and most likely going to kill the desktop, eventually. It only makes sense that development adapts to these 'physical' changes as well - it's not a fad, its reality!

Authored by: Attila Sary

Attila Sary