What is Responsive Web Design?

responsive web design

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Sooner or later you’re bound to hear “responsive web design” come up in sales pitches from digital marketing agencies. But what is responsive web design?

Put simply, responsive web design is the ability of your website to cleverly adapt to a different sized browser window. Well the technical name for the window is the “viewport”, and refers to the slice of screen that displays the website. So you know how you can drag the corners of the internet browser window? Responsive web design will ensure the text and images resize in an appropriate way so that things can still be seen clearly by the web user.

Responsive web design also refers to ways in which web pages resize in order to fit onto a mobile or tablet screen. If you haven’t given much thought about it before today, consider using a web design company. However, if you want to learn more, let’s dive together into the marvellous world of responsive web design.

What is responsive web design?

Responsive web design involves designing your website so that it reshapes and reformats to look great on screens of all sizes – from desktops to smartphones, and anything in between. With responsive web design, your website will remain simple to navigate, regardless of the device it’s being viewed from.

Using a website builder? Then make sure you choose a platform which offers mobile responsive themes. While most website builders offer this function, it’s worth double-checking. If you’re working with a professional web designer, then make sure they add this feature to your website. Check out these great examples below…

images of facebook, netflix, amazon and bbc news websites

How do responsive websites work?

We’ve all experienced it – you’re surfing the net on your phone, and you come across a website which doesn’t fit on your screen. You have to scroll around to find the menu, or zoom in to read some tiny text. It’s frustrating, right? That’s a non-responsive website, and most internet users don’t respond well to them.

By contrast, a responsive website will reformat so that it performs at optimum efficiency, no matter the size of the screen. The content remains the same, and simply adjusts itself depending on the device. When using a responsive website on your smartphone, you won’t need to pinch to zoom, squint to see, or double-click small buttons.

Check out our graphic below of responsive design in action…


an example of a responsive website

Awareness of responsive web design is crucial when planning how to build a website from scratch. Reason being user experience (UX) is hugely affected by the type of device someone views your website with. For example, your website will show more content on a desktop than it would on a mobile, which means you may lose some content on smaller screens. Our advice would be to keep the most important information at the top when designing your website, so you don’t lose the valuable stuff when your website responds to a different device.

Professional web designers should create responsive websites by design as standard, whereas a quality website builder will include this design feature by default. Therefore this is one area in which bespoke versus template web design comes up roughly equal, assuming you’ve hired a qualified expert.

Why is responsive web design so important?

Approximately half of the world’s online traffic share is mobile. And on top of that, there are currently 38 million smartphone users in the UK. That’s a lot of potential clients, customers, and visitors that could be lost due to a non-responsive website.

Think we’re being dramatic? Think again. A recent study found 57% of internet users wouldn’t recommend a business if it had a poorly designed mobile website.

Did You Know?

90% of adults think a website should look better on a mobile than it does on a desktop.

You can already see how important responsive web design is for internet users, but is there anyone else you should be looking to impress? The answer is yes: search engine crawler bots.

Google algorithms favour mobile responsive websites, ranking them higher than non-responsive websites. This is because the search engine wants the best possible experience for its users, and therefore makes responsive websites easier to find than non-responsive ones. Simple!

A web designer can do all of this for your website. They have the expertise required to not only make an awesome website, but to keep it looking awesome no matter the device. Implementing a responsive website may sound like a minor task, but it’s worth it in the long run for building brand trust, retaining customers, and simply looking good online.

Keen to get started on your web design journey?

Next steps

You now know that responsive web design involves designing your website so that the content reformats to fit within screens of all sizes. The content remains the same – it’s just the layout that reshuffles to give internet users the best experience possible. You can learn how to create responsive images in HTML or CSS code. 

Remember, people don’t like non-responsive websites because they’re tricky to use.

Secondly, Google prioritises responsive websites on the SERPs (search engine results pages), because it wants internet users to have the best possible experience. Just think – if your website isn’t mobile responsive, you could be risking your ranking on the results page.

Think this all sounds too complicated? Don’t worry. Web designers can make your website mobile responsive with ease.

So, if you’re interested, simply fill in this form – you’ll receive tailored quotes from trusted web designers, so you can find the right designer for you and get your website the positive response it deserves.

Written by:
Sabrina Dougall
Sabrina is a business journalist whose career began in news reporting. She has a master's in Investigative Journalism from City University London, and her work has appeared in The Times, The Daily Express, Money Saving Expert, Camden New Journal, Global Trade Review, and Computer Business Review. She specializes in writing about SEO (search engine optimization). Having run her own small business, Sabrina knows first-hand how critical digital marketing is to building a client base and local reputation.
Reviewed by:
Robyn Summers-Emler, Grow Online Editor, Profile Picture
Robyn started working on Expert Market in 2021 as a specialist in business websites and digital marketing. As the Grow Online Editor, she ideates, commissions and optimizes content on Expert Market that helps businesses thrive in online spaces and maximize their ecommerce potential. Covering everything from choosing a website builder to scaling a social media marketing strategy - Robyn uses her expertise to help startups, SMBs, and larger businesses realize digital growth in an increasingly competitive landscape.