The Importance of Responsive Web Design
Responsive web design is the term used to describe creating web pages that are mobile-friendly and that also look good on desktops, tablet PCs and other platforms. Responsive web designs are flexible and adapt to the type of device that the user is viewing the page on at the time.
Responsive web design could be as simple as a flexible layout that stretches and shrinks to match the screen size (or browser window size) that is being used to view it, or it could be something more sophisticated that includes serving up different images for a user on a low-resolution phone versus someone on an iPad with a Retina display.
Why Responsive Design Matters
Responsive design matters because mobile phone use is growing massively. It is expected that by 2015 mobile search volume will outstrip that of desktop devices. Already, the PC (or Mac) is being relegated to the study and used mostly for gaming and heavy-duty document processing. Social networking, casual gaming and basic product research is something that people do using their phones. This means that if you don’t have a mobile friendly website you are likely to get left behind by people that do.
Currently, more than half of all consumers use more than one device when they are shopping around and planning their product purchases. They may search for a product using the computer in the office, use their phone to ask their friends what they think, or if they have recommendations for a particular shop or product, and then complete the transaction on their iPad when they get home.
It is important to have a website that runs well on as many different devices as possible so that you don’t alienate users who have multiple devices as narrated by Andrew and Trish Riedel. If your page takes more than 8-10 seconds to load then there is a very high chance that your user will hit the back button on their mobile browser before the page finishes loading and if they do that on their first visit they will never come back to your site again.
Responsive web design is something that a lot of companies are already doing, and you cannot afford to get left behind. If you have a website that is powered by WordPress or any other popular open source CMS and you are using a high quality theme then your site is probably fairly responsive already, but it is a good idea to test it to make sure that it works as well as you think. You can use online testing tools to get an idea of how your site renders in most popular CMSes and you can also get a feel for how your site copes with different screen sizes simply by resizing the browser window on your desktop PC. However, there is no substitute for testing on a real mobile device. Ask your friends to take a look for you, or hire a usability firm to do some in-depth testing for you.