Responsive Web Design: The Future of the Web

devices

The same website displayed on three devices.

Apple introduced the iPhone in 2007 and the iPad in 2010. In three years since the iPad’s introduction, more devices than ever have been introduced to an ever-evolving, tech-oriented market. And web development is stepping up its game.

In recent years, there has been an unprecedented number of internet users accessing websites from mobile platforms. Just a few short years ago, doing so felt rather clunky. Users were usually given one to two options for browsing a website: a mobile site or desktop site. As a result, web developers had to code a minimum of two sites; coding additional sites to accommodate different devices or screen sizes.

Mobile sites are generally stripped-down, content-light websites that are optimized to load fast for mobile users. These sites, however, were principally built to be displayed on smartphones. Often when using a tablet, the mobile site would automatically load leaving tablet users with lackluster websites. Tablet users could attempt to view the desktop site, but would often run into a roadblock: the infamous Flash player.

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Screenshot from an iPhone attempting to view Flash content

From the first day the iPhone was released, Apple chose not to support Flash player on any of its current or future devices. Other tablet makers initially supported Flash, but it was temporary. Today, finding a tablet or smartphone capable of displaying Flash is incredibly difficult (except for Microsoft’s Surface tablet).

Much of that is by the wayside now. Flash is quickly dying and being replaced by the likes of HTML 5, CSS, JavaScript, and other languages—each capable of being displayed on mobile devices. Even traditional mobile sites are not as plentiful as they once were. Enter: Responsive Web Design.

Responsive Web Design (RWD) is a much needed advancement in today’s mobile, always-connected world. RWD is a new development that allows websites to adapt to each device it is being displayed on and uses advanced coding to achieve this flexibility.

With Responsive Web Design, only one site needs to be designed—saving companies both time and money. However, that one site requires advanced technical skills and critical thinking to optimize it for every device and screen size.

display infographic

Devices come in many forms and a plethora of resolutions. Tablets, laptops, desktops, and even televisions are all capable of accessing the internet. Smartphones and tablets can switch their orientations at the user’s whim. Many computer users do not even maximize their web browsers. It does not matter whether a website is maximized, snapped to the side of the screen, or displayed on a 27-inch monitor, websites designed with RWD will automatically adjust to fit without the need to side-scroll.

Moreover, mobile devices are reaping the rewards from RWD. No longer confined to the sad, mobile sites they once were, smartphones have access to lush websites with stunning graphics giving users full-service websites. RWD can even optimize images for high-resolution displays like Apple’s Retina Display.

Responsive Web Design solves more than the problems currently faced—it future-proofs as well. If the last few years are any indicator, it is certain that many new types of devices are sure to be introduced, and RWD will be an asset for any Web designer.

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