Very soon, more people will be viewing websites on smartphones than on laptops or desktop computers. Tablets are also zooming in popularity.
What this means is that the website that is carefully crafted to look amazing on a wide screen won’t be seen that way most of the time. Instead, most viewers will see a “miniaturized” form of the site — one they’ll have to pinch and zoom to read.
Responsive web design is an answer to this problem. A responsive website changes form depending on the size of the screen it is being viewed on. For example, a website that is three columns across on a wide screen would become two columns on a tablet and a single column on a smartphone. Readability and usability are maximized.
(This website is an example of responsive web design. Look at it on both your laptop and your phone and you will see that the two column wide screen format changes to one for mobile. The text remains readable on the small screen. The navigation is also enhanced for the smartphone touchscreen.)
How does a responsive website differ from a mobile website? A mobile website is a completely separate site from your main website. It’s a very good solution when you want a mobile site to be very different from the main site; mobile websites are still the right answer in certain situations.
But one downside of a separate mobile website is that you have to maintain it separately. Many of the businesses we work with have trouble finding time to take good care of their single website; adding a second, mobile website to the mix would pose a big problem for them. The beauty of a responsive website is that one single website reformats to look optimal on different size screens. It’s the perfect solution for many businesses.