What is responsive design and why is it becoming popular?

responsive layout

Technology has advanced exponentially over the past decade than most people would have imagined. On the software side, apps and websites have evolved from desktop focused to mobile enabled applications. Websites have become interactive and dynamic enabling rich user experience. On the hardware side, handheld internet enabled devices are now common and affordable. For developers, adapting to these changes was the only way to keep up with the constant evolution.

One of the changes that have been necessitated by this evolution is responsive website design.

What is responsive design?

When encountered by the question what is a responsive website, most people think mobile first design. This however is part of responsive design. Responsive website design focuses on building a website that shows uniformly across all internet enabled devices.

How is responsive web design achieved?

Responsive website design is achieved by using existing web development technologies such as HTML5, CSS and JavaScript. CCS in particular is an important technology when it comes to designing a responsive website.

Initially, web developers needed to use long pieces of code and hacks to get a website to be responsive. In many cases, this code was custom to particular sites and therefore not reusable in most sites. It was therefore quite expensive to hire responsive web designers than it is today.

Today however, responsive website designing is more affordable thanks to new technologies which will be introduced later.

Why responsive design?

If you look at most job descriptions for a website design and development project, knowledge of responsive design is usually a requirement. But why are website owners opting for mobile friendly websites? Here are the three main reasons.

Studies show that the number of internet users accessing sites using mobile devices has increased exponentially over the past decade. It’s estimated that this number is going to exceed that of desktop users in the near future. For the website owner, having a website with a responsive layout makes it more accessible to all types of internet users.

Before focus shifted towards building mobile first responsive design sites, web developers were tasked with building two or more websites for their clients. One was to be mobile accessible and the other for desktop users. The mobile friendly website usually lacked any features present on the desktop version. This meant user experience for mobile users wasn’t satisfied. In addition, website owners had to incur extra costs to build two sites and, saw shortcomings as far as branding their online businesses went.

Finally, the mobile friendly update rolled out by Google in April 2015 has contributed to the demand for sites with mobile responsive design. According to the algorithm update, websites that are mobile friendly are given ranking preference over their non-mobile friendly counterparts.

Best responsive design tools

Today, responsive web development has been somewhat streamlined through the use of various tools. Streamlining has made it easy to build mobile friendly sites fast. Some of the popular tools for developing these sites include the following:

Bootstrap

This is the most popular and commonly used tool. It was initially developed for the social site Twitter. Bootstrap is a HTML, CSS and JavaScript framework. It uses grids to resize a web page based on the device used to view it. Bootstrap is implemented on most websites that spot a responsive design.

W3.CSS

This is another HTML, CSS3 and JavaScript framework. W3.CSS developed by the W3C, it’s designed to be an alternative to Bootstrap. Its lightweight nature makes it a great tool to develop high speed websites. However, compared to Bootstrap, it doesn’t have many rich features.

Ready made responsive web template

Since emphasis started being placed on mobile friendly design, many developers and companies have created responsive design templates. These can be applied to the regular HTML based website or on content management systems such as WordPress and Joomla. The templates are available for free or licensed.

Custom responsive site development

The three tools mentioned above have one major disadvantage. Unless they are fully customized by changing the CSS and JavaScript files that come with them, the websites developed using them are rather generic and look similar. If you want a custom responsive website, hiring a responsive web designing company is the best option.

A responsive website development company will create a tailor made code for a mobile friendly site that best suits your business’ needs.

If you’re yet to create a responsive website, chance are that it isn’t accessible to a large number of your target visitors. Many internet users are using their mobile devices to access blogs, email and even shop. If you already have an existing site, you can opt to have it redesigned using the tools mentioned above or, have a new mobile responsive site developed from scratch.

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