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Of all the important web design trends, none have made as much impact as responsive web design. In our increasingly connected world, the need for fast information on the smallest of devices necessitates this, thanks to the rise of smartphones and digital tablets. So much so, that some people check their Facebook or Twitter feeds on a smartphone instead of a PC.

What is it?

Today, responsive web design has a bearing on your search engine rankings. So much so that an April 2015 Google update favoured sites using RWD techniques. As a consequence, websites which didn’t support responsive web design techniques were penalised. The popular press dubbed their April 2015 update as Mobilegeddon. With The Four Horsemen of the Algorithms looming, companies rushed to change their sites to more mobile friendly designs.

Mobileggedon

A responsive website makes a lot of sense on commercial grounds as well as user-friendliness. The chances of being seen by Google are greater, which makes for better rankings. Though desktop and laptop PCs are the desired media for web browsing, the rise in mobile browsing shouldn’t be underestimated. It is worth noting that…

Here’s how Mobilegeddon was covered in four news websites:

What is Responsive Web Design?

Responsive Web Design is a form of web design based around scalable graphics and page layouts. Whereas mobile first design previously meant separate styles for peripherals and mobile phones, one style fits all media. Graphics are flexible and pages built this way can be visited without having to magnify your smartphone or digital tablet. Clicking on links no longer means moving the page left or right, or zooming in or out.

To best fit devices, a website using responsive web design has “break points” whereby the style is adjusted to suit, for example, the latest iOS device. Plus variations for other devices and computer screens.

When did it take off?

Once upon a time, mobile internet meant little legible content, broken graphics, and separate styles for each type of device. Then came Responsive Web Design. Though the concept was first mooted in 2001, inconsistent browser standards delayed mobile first design for a good ten years.

The biggest catalyst was the launch of Apple’s iPhone, which necessitated the need for “mobile first” web design. Even then, browser standards varied, and this was apparent up to 2010 when Microsoft was shamed into dropping support for Internet Explorer 6. The once-popular browser, coded nine years from then, failed every modern day web standards test. This led to successful No to IE6 campaigns and from there, the internet was able to move on.

Two years on, Responsive Web Design rose in popularity. Like any new trend, such as rock ‘n’ roll music and guitar groups, it was dismissed as a fad. Four years on, everyone started doing it: superstores, bloggers, newspapers, semi-pro football teams, and forum administrators. Plus there’s still a lot of call for guitars, acoustic or electric.

Responsive Web Design versus Non-Responsive Web Design websites

Designed for tablets and smartphones as well as computers, and all web browsers

Scalable graphics and layouts designed for a variety of screen resolutions

Coding styles work for multitude of layouts

Efficient coding may allow for faster loading times across platforms

Scalable navigation allows easy browsing across all formats

May only be designed for computer screens, sometimes for use in certain browsers

Non-scalable graphics and layouts, may need to be zoomed in and out on portable devices

May have separate files for each different style according to device

Could be slow to load on portable devices

Browsing could be tedious if user needs to scroll or zoom to get to desired page(s)

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