Responsive Web Design: The Next Mobile Mega-Trend

by: Andy Crestodina

We’ve all seen, heard and felt the huge shift toward mobile. In case you need a reminder, these stats tell the story:

What’s responsive web design?

Responsive sites are mobile-friendly. But not all mobile websites are responsive. A mobile website is a separate site. Visitors on phones are redirected to a separate site, usually at an address such as mobile.website.com or m.website.com.

But with responsive web design, one site works well on both desktop and mobile devices because it rearranges itself depending on the size of the screen. It “responds” to the browser. Big screen desktop? The site looks great with big images and several columns. Small screen phone? The big photo disappears, navigation consolidates, and page elements shift into one column.

It’s one site, but it looks great on phones, tablets, and desktop computers. One site to build, one site to manage, one site for Google to crawl.

Tip: To see if any site is a responsive web design, just click the bottom right corner of your browser and drag the mouse up and left. If the site layout changes as your window gets smaller, it’s responsive.

Welcome to the biggest trend in mobile.

The word is out, and the marketing world is waking up. Monthly Google searches for “responsive web design” have gone from zero to 18,100 in the last 2 years. This graph shows the interest in responsive web design. Looks kind of like a hockey stick…

Are website owners responding?

Not so much. Aside from a few big brands, media companies, and boutique design shops, very few companies are building fully responsive sites. Even web design companies are falling behind. Only 4% of the companies in Crain’s Web Developer Directory have responsive websites. In fact, 80% don’t even have any kind of mobile website.

Cobblers’ children go barefoot? Many Chicago web design companies don’t have mobile-friendly websites.

- 80% not mobile-friendly
- 16% separate mobile website
- 4% responsive web design

Tip: Mobile-friendly websites are especially important for companies active in email marketing and social media. Traffic from these sources is often on mobile devices.

Back in my day…

Ten years ago, I had to convince people that a content management system was a good idea. Now, everyone expects their website to have a CMS. Responsive will be the same. Just as we expect our sites to look good on Chrome, Explorer, Firefox, and Safari, within a year we’ll all expect our sites to look good on our phones. One site for all devices.

Technology and design trends are ready. Not a bad time to design a website. If your planning a site now, make responsive one of your requirements. And if you’re already in the midst of a web design project, it’s not too late to ask…

About the author Andy Crestodina @crestodina
Andy Crestodina is the Strategic Director of Orbit Media, a web design company in Chicago. He’s also the author of Content Chemistry, An Illustrated Guide to Content Marketing You can find Andy on and Twitter.

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