What Is Responsive Web Design and Why Should I Use It?


Responsive Web Design (RWD) is a hot topic among professional web designers as of late. If you frequently visit some of the leading webmaster forums or blogs, chances are you’ve heard of this technique. RWD is being touted as one of the latest and greatest developments in web design, encouraging greater compatibility across a multitude of different devices.

RWD focuses on universal designs that load and function across all devices. Whether an Internet user is on a desktop computer, laptop, smartphone, tablet, etc., RWD promotes a smooth experience regardless of the device. So, how is it able to achieve this? The secret to its success lies in CSS3 media queries and proportion-based grids. In order words, RWD sites use percentages to create the same layout across all devices – scaling according to the device being used.

It’s a little-known fact that Responsive Web Design has been around since May 2010. Ethan Marcotte coined the term in an article published in A List Apart. In this article, Marcotte discussed the practice of RWD and how it “should” work. This design trend ultimately failed to take off at the time, however, and it wasn’t until several years later when businesses and web designers began to realize the true value of RWD. Forbes published an article titled “Why You Need To Prioritize Responsive Design Now,” in which it described the importance of a Responsive Web Design and why having a separate mobile website wasn’t enough anymore.

Recommended By Google

Google supports three configurations for creating smart phone-optimized websites: separate mobile URL, dynamically serving different HTML on the same URL based on the user agent, and using a Responsive Web Design.

While all three of these methods can technically be used to create a mobile-friendly website, Google recommends using the a Responsive Web Design.

Responsive design: serves the same HTML for one URL and uses CSS media queries to determine how the content is rendered on the client side. This removes the possible glitches of user-agent detection and frees users from redirects. This is Google’s recommended configuration.”

Lower Bounce Rate

Implementing a Responsive Web Design in your site may also lower its bounce rate. Bounce rate is defined as the percentage of visitors who land on a website and leave without visiting another internal page. Not to be confused with exit rate, ‘bounces’ are only triggered when a visitor leaves the site after visiting just one page.

Because they are cross-compatible with an array of different devices, Responsive websites typically have lower bounce rates. If a person attempts to access a non-Responsive website on his or her smartphone, for instance, they may back out due to poor performance or broken elements, which counts as a bounce. If the website used a Responsive Web Design, these same mobile visitors more likely to stay and navigate through to other pages.

Check out our previous blog post titled, Is a High Bounce Rate Killing Your Conversions for more tips on how to lower your site’s bounce rate.

Easier To Maintain

Another benefit associated with Responsive Web Design is its ease of maintenance. Some webmasters assume the best approach to attracting mobile visitors is to create a separate mobile website (a configuration supported by Google, as noted above). However, building a separate mobile website means you’ll have twice the work to do when performing updates and regular maintenance. Each time your website requires maintenance – whether it’s adding new content or updating your CMS to the latest version – you must perform the maintenance on both the desktop URL and the mobile URL.

By using a Responsive Web Design, webmasters have a single URL to maintain. This allows webmasters to focus their resources on other tasks, such as growing and expanding their sites.


Google uses hundreds of different signals to determine how and where a website should rank. Some of these signals are obvious, such as content relevancy, bounce rate (we mentioned this earlier), content “freshness,” and backlinks, while others are not-so-obvious, such as visitors’ average time on site, and compatibility on mobile devices.

It’s in the search engines best interest to rank websites which deliver a positive user experience higher in the SERPS. Responsive websites naturally promote a positive user experience since they load and function across all devices; therefore, they are more likely to rank higher than non-responsive sites. Of course, the lower bounce rate associated with RWD may also prove beneficial in helping sites rank higher.

RWD is a web design trend that’s here to stay. With mobile Internet usage expected to surpass desktop use by the end of the year, webmasters must address the needs of their mobile users. RWD aims to achieve a positive experience across all devices while allowing webmasters to use a single domain. This mobile-friendly aspect combined with the other benefits listed here makes Responsive Web Design a powerful tool for webmasters.