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You will be forgiven for thinking that the term “Responsive Design” sounds like marketing jargon for “good website”. It does in fact mean something very specific. Years ago, websites that catered for mobile users as well as traditional desktop browsers often hosted a separate site especially made for them. These mobile versions of the site were normally drastically limited versions of the main site. At the time, mobile devices couldn't handle much more than some text and a few images – if you were lucky!
These days of course, everyone owns a mobile device of some sort that can connect to the internet, be it a phone, tablet, portable games console or even a watch. Such devices are nowhere near as limited as in the “old days”, however they are still physically small meaning traditional web pages are hard to read on them unless they have been adapted for mobile.
What Responsive Design does is allow a website to be aware of the kind of device that is viewing it. Normally this is done using the screen size. A responsive site will be able to tell if the user is using a tablet or a mobile phone and is then able to serve up the content to suit.
An example of this is the menu which needs to work quite differently on a mobile device to what you would expect on a desktop computer. Fonts need to be bigger on smaller screens, images carefully scaled, and in many cases the layout changed quite considerably. All of this happens behind the scenes without the user even knowing about it.
To find out if a website is responsive or not, view it on your computer and then make the browser window smaller. A responsive site will adjust the layout to the screen, as it would for a mobile device or screen of a different size.
One of the most drastic changes on a responsive site is the menu. There is less physical space on a mobile screen and therefore the menu is normally hidden behind a button. Once pressed, the menu will be scrollable using a swiping action, allowing full access to lots of menu items on a small screen.
Easy to swipe sliders and bigger controls for touch screens are just some features of an enjoyable mobile web experience.
Current figures suggest around 50% of all website traffic is now from mobile devices. Search engines such as Google also penalise sites that do not work well on mobile devices. Having a responsive site has never been more important, and frankly put, without one your site is massively underperforming. For this reason, all of the sites we design are responsive as standard.