What is Responsive Web Design?

What is Responsive Web Design?

Ever wondered what responsive web design is? It is an approach where a designer creates a site that automatically resizes itself or responds to the device it’s being viewed through. It remains one of the hottest web design trends today, partially due to the increased use of mobile devices.

When viewed on a desktop computer, a traditional fixed website may show three columns. The same layout on a smaller tablet forces one to scroll horizontally, and that’s not something people like. Some elements may look distorted or hidden from view. This is made more complicated by the fact that you can view content on tablets in landscape or portrait orientation.

It is even more challenging to view traditional fixed websites on tiny smartphone screens. Websites can slow down considerably, particularly if the graphics are heavy.

With a responsive design, tablet and smartphone versions adjust automatically to display two and one column respectively. This makes for easier reading and navigation. Images are resized rather than get distorted or completely cut off.

Principles of Responsive Web Design

There are three main principles of responsive web design i.e. fluid grids, media queries and fluid images.

Fluid Grids

Websites are traditionally defined in terms of pixels, an idea that was borrowed from the print industry. And while magazines are newspapers are the same fixed size, that is now how websites are displayed.

Sites can appear in a small format like a tablet or larger screens like desktop computers and televisions. Due to this, websites are usually defined in relative units like percentages. A simple formula that can help transform a website to percentages from pixels is;

Target/Context = Result

A fluid grid is the foundation of responsive web design and it utilizes relative sizing to fit website content to the device screen. CSS is usually used to position the content.

Media Queries

Taking a two column layout and shrinking it down to a mobile phone can be challenging. Because smartphones are usually used in portrait mode, the screens are taller than they are wide. This makes them good for websites that scroll vertically, but the same cannot be said for sites with wide layouts and several columns.

Media queries are a CSS technology that allows CSS to be applied only when certain conditions are met. You can write a media query to serve CSS that automatically rearranges website content when the browser reaches a specific width.

Media queries or breakpoints are utilized to apply different styles depending on the device capabilities. You can use them to adjust the max-width, max-height, width, height, orientation, and aspect ratio just to name a few.

Fluid Images

Another principle of responsive web design is fluid images. The idea here is that images on your site should be able to shrink or expand within the confines of the fluid grid. You can use CSS code to tell the browser that images should be as large as the pixel value. This guarantees that images are never pixilated or stretched.

It is important to note that images nested inside a parent container that’s smaller than the pixel value should shrink. If a 800px wide image is placed inside a 600px wide parent container, then the image will shrink to 600 pixels. Height is calculated automatically and adjusted to fit the original aspect ratio.

Impact of Responsive Web Design on Online Marketing

If you didn’t think that responsive web design has an impact on digital marketing, it is time to rethink that position. Responsive web design has grown to become more than just a fad status. It is a way of life for web designers and mobile device users.

So how does it affect digital marketing?

Conversion rate optimization

The overall feel of a website conveys its authority to the visitors. Think of a scenario where you want to purchase concert tickets and when you get to the site, it looks like a WordPress template with stock images. Would you feel comfortable making payments on that site?

The truth is you won’t and neither will your users. A design that is too complex will undoubtedly slow down the load time. On the other hand, a design that’s too simple may make your site appear untrustworthy.

This is where balance is needed and a responsive website design offers just that. It ensures that your design is complex enough to ensure conversion rate optimization yet simple enough to satisfy user experience.

Search optimization

We could spend days talking about how a responsive website design improves search engine ranking. The important thing is that it incorporates all of the elements that are deemed ranking factors.

It helps improve customer experience and optimizes web pages to load as quickly as possible, thus a more positive user experience. Search engines also consider dwell time when ranking websites. That said, if your website design prevents easy comprehension, visitors will leave it quickly.

Another advantage of responsive web design is that it ensures there’s no duplication of content. You can also count on increased social media sharing if your website is responsive.


It doesn’t take an expert to spot a bad website and as previously noted, a visitor will develop certain perceptions about your website immediately they see it. The design can have disastrous effects on your brand if users have a negative perception about your site.

A responsive website design helps create a site that invokes the kind of perception you want. It goes a long way towards ensuring the site reflects your brand. From the infrastructure and aesthetics to the set up of the site, you can use every aspect of responsive website design to boost your online brand.

With more people switching to mobile devices, responsive website design has never been any more important. It is no wonder that Google and other search engines recommend it. Responsive web design encompasses different workflows, tools, resources and techniques. And while it is impossible to put together a completely comprehensive guide, you can be sure that it is an important foundation for ensuring the success of your online marketing efforts.

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