What is Responsive Web Design?

With each passing year, we’ve witnessed a growing trend of more and more people using smartphones. Actually, it’s more than a trend, it’s a fact. According to a report published by Business Insider, it is estimated that we’ll see smartphones hit the plus side of 80% of total mobile phones in North America. For most of us blog readers (and writers), this is kind of a no-brainer — I’d bet there are very few of us who can identify someone in our circles who does not own a smartphone.

Here is another fact: Individuals are using these devices to access and consume internet content. Of those who read this article, there is a 50% chance one will be doing so on a smartphone or tablet. The year 2014 is the first time mobile internet usage surpassed desktop.

And the thing is, the way people use mobile internet is much different than desktop. It’s real time baby, it’s now and it’s relevant. If someone is researching your product or service on their mobile device, it means they have an immediate need, and guess what… if your website isn’t ready to showcase your business in the best way or leaves the visitor with a poor experience, your first impression is shot.


Let’s talk about responsive website design, what it means, and how it can help your small business. In short, a responsive website is designed to fit in whatever screen size is viewed.

I’m not going to lie, it is a technical undertaking to build a responsive website there are some good solutions for business owners who find themselves savvy enough to give the DIY route a try.

It uses a mix of HTML5, CSS and Javascript to make sure your website fits fluidly in the viewing area of any device you are using, from desktop to tablet to smartphone. No pinching or zooming required. And it is done so by maintaining a single website instance. There are tools available that “convert” your website from desktop to mobile, but that means you have to maintain two separate versions of your site. It also means that if you share content socially, you have to ensure the links work seamlessly from desktop to mobile. That’s too much work, with too many opportunities for error.

Implementing a responsive website design is a fairly straightforward development process. The two biggest questions you need to answer are:

  • What do you want your visitors to do when they visit your site?
  • Where is the traffic coming from?

A close third is ‘How do you want your visitors to connect with your brand?’. By understanding these questions, your path to conversion can be kept small and your call-to-action can be placed, literally, at the tip of your visitor’s finger. Ultimately, you need to remember that the full website is a system, not a series of pages. You also need to consider why visitors might be coming to your website from a mobile device, and what information they are seeking. If someone is visiting your website on a mobile device, the chances of them being in ‘buy now’ mode is much greater.

Whether you have an existing website or not, getting it built responsively should be a priority for all small businesses. If you’re blogging regularly (and you should be) or sharing content on social media (and you should be), having your website appear as elegant and beautiful as it can be on any screen size is an important part of the conversion funnel. There is way too much traffic coming from mobile devices to ignore, and visitors are starting to expect great experiences on their smartphones.

As I mentioned previously, there are many do-it-yourself platforms if cost is a concern (links below), but for the best value (notice how I didn’t say cheapest), I recommended hiring a professional web design firm. You’ll get the most out of your investment and you’ll have the right people in your corner that can help you anytime you need them.