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What is Responsive Web Design?

responsive web design
A website built with responsive Web design uses a flexible approach to layout, fonts and images to adapt to different screens on different devices.
Credit: Digital Storm | Shutterstock

Responsive Web design uses a flexible approach to website layout, fonts and images to adapt to different screens on different devices. The trend is driven by the increased use of smartphones, tablets, e-readers and other gadgets to access the Web.

By designing websites that respond to the user, developers ensure a streamlined experience across a range of devices. In other words, the site can tell what kind of device is being used and displays information accordingly.

By automatically readjusting the size of photos and choosing optimal fonts and layouts, sites built with responsive Web design (RWD) allow for a positive user experience no matter a device's screen size or capabilities.

Single source code, multiple platforms

In the past, developers had to build a different website for every species of device that came on the market. Someone viewing a website on a Windows phone was directed to a different page than an iPad user, or example.

But in responsive Web design, developers use a single source code across all devices. A site knows how to present itself thanks to media queries, which are an important element of CSS3, the coding language that dictates a site's format, such as color, font and layout.

For more information on how CSS3 utilizes media queries, read Ethan Marcotte's "Responsive Web Design." Marcotte, a successful Web developer and the author of several books on the subject, is one of the pioneers behind the responsive Web design movement.

What responsive Web design means for business

Many businesses have already made over their sites in the responsive style.

Businesses find that it is both more time and cost effective to build a single site that is compatible with many devices rather than build several different mobile sites. And once built, responsive sites are easier to maintain.

Another compelling reason for businesses to make the switch to responsive Web design is that it can help improve search engine optimization (SEO). A responsively designed site will almost certainly improve your business's Google ranking.

And if Google can't sway your opinion, maybe General Electric can. GE and other leading manufacturers are churning out "smart" refrigerators, washing machines and other home appliance, bringing the Internet-connectivity craze right into consumers' homes.

A responsively designed website will make your business more compatible with both today and tomorrow's technology and allow you to reach more customers.

Making the switch

If you're interested in making the switch to a responsive site but aren't sure where to start, there are a lot of web design software tools that can help you.

Whether you're a seasoned developer or a novice, responsive frameworks for WordPress can help you redesign your site for better mobility.

Adobe's new Edge Reflow framework offers businesses a great tool for bringing their sites into the responsive era. And Bootstrap, created by developers at Twitter, is another powerful framework that can help you update your site.

Follow Elizabeth Palermo on Twitter @techEpalermo or BusinessNewsDaily @BNDarticles. We're also on Facebook & Google+.

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