Responsive design, a phrase and concept first introduced in 2011 by web developer Ethan Marcotte, is a method of developing a website that allows the site to recognize and adapt to the device on which it is being viewed; specifically, websites with responsive designs can detect whether the user is viewing them on smartphones, tablets, etc. and whether the view is vertical or horizontal and, subsequently, can readily conform to appropriately fit the given view. While a number of approaches can be taken when creating a mobile website with responsive design, in general, these sites are developed fluid grids, flexible images (that readily conform to different interfaces) and CSS (Cascading Style Sheet) media inquiries.

Some of the benefits of having a mobile website with a responsive design are that they:

  • Allow a business to develop a single mobile website that will work across a range of mobile devices, which can save business owners a significant amount of money (as they will not have to design individual mobile websites that will work for specific mobile devices)
  • Are easier and cheaper to maintain than apps or multiple mobile websites because they rely on a single code base
  • Provide a consistent experience across different mobile platforms, which helps to keep branding and the user experience consistent (both of which can be key to retaining and building a customer base).

However, responsive design is not without its challenges, some of which include the following:

  • Mobile websites with responsive design can be complex to develop to ensure that the site works well and provides a good user experience across various mobile devices; this may increase the initial developing costs.
  • Because responsive design is so new, the industry is still working towards establishing best practicesfor developing these types of websites; therefore, when developing these types of mobile websites, it will be critical to work with an experienced mobile web developer (as an inexperienced mobile web developer is more likely to create a clunky, poorly optimized site).