This is a great question that we hear almost daily. Our ‘official’ definition source is Wikipedia: “Responsive web design (RWD) is a web design approach aimed at crafting sites to provide an optimal viewing experience—easy reading and navigation with a minimum of resizing, panning, and scrolling—across a wide range of devices (from mobile phones to desktop computer monitors).”
Simply put, a responsive website adapts to the screen it is being viewed on. This isn’t just making a tiny version of the desktop view on your mobile device, or a giant version of a mobile site. A responsive design changes to suit the device you are viewing it on. So if you pull up the site on your desktop, laptop, tablet or phone, it looks great and is easy to navigate.
Responsiveness is accomplished through three methods: fluid, adaptive and alternate content.
- A fluid design changes in a smooth, typically predictable manner using a single design for every browser size
- An adaptive responsive website will have different design variations that are served up at a predetermined screen sizes. These are sometimes referred to as break points.
- A site which uses the alternate content method simply detects and redirects mobile users to a different site that is designed for those devices. With this method, users could also be directed to a phone or tablet app.
While the third method isn’t using one design, or even one site, it still delivers an optimal viewing experience across a wide range of devices, which is the ultimate goal of responsive design.