What Is Responsive Web Design?

There has been a lot of scare stories on the web recently about the way a sites rankings could suffer on Google if it was not built ‘responsively’ (that’s not responsibly, that’s another story entirely), but these as ever need some clarification.

So what is the real story here and ‘What is Responsive Web Design’ anyway? Well first, let us put to bed those scare stories. It does seem to be the case that sites may suffer some down grading on their ranks if their sites are not built in a manner that will not display well on Non desktop screens, but only and this is important, on MOBILE searches, that is searches made on mobile devices.

That does not mean that the whole thing should be ignored however, as the percentage of web use on mobile devices is climbing all the time…

So with the scare story out of the way, lets try to answer the question ‘What is Responsive Web Design?’

A few years ago, Ethan Marcotte introduced the concept of responsive web design. Web designers, developers and web project stakeholders latched onto it.

That initial popularity was followed by a slew of naysayers. Business owners and marketers who were hearing the original buzz got excited but soon became apprehensive. Is responsive design really good? Is it just a trend? What does it actually mean? Does it really save money?

Today, responsive design is still more of a debate than an accepted web design practice, but the arguments are all a bit off topic. As a web development community, we know the benefits of responsive design and we see the need to design for multiple devices, but, for the most part, we’re all still assessing and addressing web development issues with a more traditional mindset. This results in poor judgment and implementation.

However, as designers and developers learn and experiment with responsive, the community as a whole will move towards a more modern mindset. ‘Responsive web design’ will become just ‘web design’.
Responsive, good and bad

Truthfully, no firm is better solely because it designs responsively. Like all web design, there’s good and bad responsive work. When people argue against the merits of responsive design, they’re usually basing their arguments on poor responsive implementation. Good responsive work is still quite rare. Why? Because responsive design is really hard.

Designing for every device that exists and could ever exist is much harder than designing for a specific device. It’s quite logical. Instead of outlining the rules and limitations of one platform, we now try to adhere to the rules and limits of all platforms, making sure that the site automatically knows when to serve up what.

This is an immensely challenging task. Designers and developers grabbed onto the theory early, but in practice, we all have a ton of catching up to do.

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