More than half of the Internet traffic nowadays takes place on mobile devices.  We are talking cell phones and tablets.  The concept f Responsive Web Design started to become popular when devices started to allow more flexibility to optimize web navigation for mobile users.  For instance, web designers realized that a new and more practical approach was needed for the ever-changing mobile technology that allowed users to go from portrait to landscape.  This posed a challenge to designers which started to wonder how overwhelming creating a different program for every consideration would be.

This is how responsive web design was born.  The concept refers to the optimization of a website to make it fit into the now-wide range of devices with a minimum scrolling, resizing and panning.  This software, therefore, is flexible and automatic.

Developers soon realized that they would not be able to customize web designs to every single new device coming out.  The solution then was to allow the layout to easily adapt to all designs.

This is achieved by applying some techniques:

Fluid grid

Instead of using points or pixels as determinants of sizing, responsive web designers use relative units, such as percentages or ems.  This same concept is applied to images. This allows images to become optimized and not limited by their element.

Media queries

This module is what makes RWD possible.  It allows content to adapt to the conditions and resolution of the device where a website is opened.  It is a CSS3 module that was suggested to become the standard in June 2012.  Media queries are made of a media type along with media features.  The result resolve to either being true or false.

What is the impact of responsive web design to design in general?

It goes without saying that RWD has become almost indispensable to any website marketing campaign.  Having a web design that is flexible and adapts has become the standard that separates websites with a clean SEO from those that do not.

Google, for instance, is now ranking higher those sites that were opened from a mobile device more time, providing a great reader´s experience.  This causes those websites without a mobile version to rank lower than those that do.

But RWD is not an end in itself as proponents are coming up with ideas that provide an even better mobile experience, such as Luke Wroblewski’s suggestion of RESS (responsive web design with server-side components).  This approach requires the conjunction between the devices differences and a device capabilities database via a server-based API.

The future holds new challenges to the idea behind RWD for web designers.  But the more this technology is required, the more it will continue to improve mobile user experience.