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What is Responsive Design and Why Should I Care About It?

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As a web designer, I’ve been forced to accept the steady barrage of new terminologies and techniques that are constantly popping up out of nowhere.
More often then not, all the hype surrounding these supposedly earth-shattering developments subsides just as quickly as it emerged. It’s usually good practice to let the dust settle before incorporating a new technique or approach into your workflow or recommend it to your clients.
However, one relatively new approach to web design and user experience that can be embraced with confidence and accepted as gospel is responsive design.

What is Responsive Design?

Responsive design, in a nutshell, allows a website to detect your device’s screen width and feature set, and in turn use this information to display an optimized look and feel to the browser.
In other words, a responsively designed website done correctly will show up looking great on an iPhone, tablet, or a laptop.
In the days of ubiquitous smartphones and mobile devices, responsive design is something every website needs to incorporate. If you ignore or avoid its inclusion in your web site, the ramifications will eventually catch up with you.

Why Should I Care if I Have a Responsive Site or Not?

There’s a good chance that someone checking out your website on a mobile device has an urgent need.
Consider this: immediacy and real-time need are important factors that drive users to surf the web while on the go or away from the comfort of their desktop computers. The implication is that you could very well have not just a lead on your hands, but a hot one.
A user who initiates interaction with the browser in a more impulsive, demanding or urgent state is likely a visitor who is more willing to act. The ability to provide these users with a fast-loading, well-formatted experience can be the difference between landing a new customer or not.
With the proliferation of smartphones and tablets, you can’t be sure what kind of device those viewing your website are using. It’s best to be certain they are all engaged with a pleasant experience.
When a site is responsive, it just feels right. Without it, the end user is left pinching, zooming, and scrolling around to find what they need.
And it’s hard to convert a visitor to a lead when you’re making them frustrated.

It’s Never Too Late

As more and more websites embrace responsive design, user expectations are increasing. This new reality means the tolerance for sites that don’t look good on a smartphone is dwindling faster than food rations in a Walking Dead survivor camp.
If you already have a site and it’s not responsive, don’t panic. Websites can be adapted to be responsive without having to start from the ground up. If you’re using WordPress, there are also plugins available which can display your site more appropriately on mobile devices, although this approach is a bit more of a quick fix than a total solution.