Responsive web design, or RWD, is a web design approach used to create an optimal viewing experience for web users. RWD attempts to provide easy reading and navigation with a minimum of resizing, panning, or scrolling. In the last year alone, responsive web design has skyrocketed to popularity across a wide range of devices from desktop and laptop computer monitors to seven-inch tablets and mobile phones.
Many field experts claim that 2013 is the year of responsive web design. Reasons like the decline of personal computer sales, a surge in the popularity of mobile apps, and creation of many different mobile devices are just a few of the factors resulting in the demand of responsive web design.
For the first time since 2001, sales of personal computers were projected to be lower than the previous year. More and more frequently, consumers are foregoing desktop and laptop computers and purchasing tablets instead. In 2012, tablet sales exceeded 100 million and are expected to top the sales of notebook computers in 2013.
Smartphones are a completely different market by themselves. As of March 2012, 49.7% of mobile phone users owned a smart phone, a number that is only anticipated to grow in 2013. Furthermore, recent research states that mobile web traffic accounts for 15% of all Internet traffic.
With the growth of the smart phone market, many companies are building mobile apps to increase their company’s exposure and drive mobile traffic. There’s no doubt that mobile apps help increase exposure and drive traffic, but how do you possibly build for every app store? Experts suggest that having a well-developed mobile website is the cure-all solution to ensure that every web user has a pleasant viewing experience no matter what device they are using.
Simply put, responsive web design uses a media query system to detect what kind of browser or device the website is being viewed on. Upon device detection, the site will then optimize to fit screens. For example, if you are viewing a website that utilizes RWD on a desktop or laptop computer and resize your browser, the site will shrink to fit the new size of the browser window. If you are viewing on a mobile device, RWD sites utilizing switching between columns to fit-to-screen.
Given the rapid consumer growth of smartphones and tablets, it seems clear that 2013 will in fact be the year for responsive web development. The benefits are clear: build a website once, and it works perfectly across thousands of different devices.