Responsive website design

First published in the Times Transcript

This article is about one of the most fundamental changes of how corporate websites are being viewed on desktop computers and mobile devices.

At my child’s Christmas concert I took note of the large number of parents who were photographing their children’s big moments with their smartphones. I have been aware of this trend to smartphones for some time. Indeed, a 2012 Nielsen study found that half of mobile customers are smartphone owners, that two out of three new mobile buyers are opting for smartphones, and that this trend will continue. As well, people are now using devices such as iPads and tablets, which also allow them to stay online while on the fly. The Internet is no longer chained to the desktop.

What does a mobile Internet mean to business owners and managers?  In June 2012, the Internet analytics company Comscore found that within the next 12-18 months the number of website viewings on mobile devices will overtake those on desktop and laptop PCs.  Their further research revealed that four out of five smartphone owners were using their phones to shop.

Until now, websites have been designed to accommodate the relatively standard size of desktop-computer screens.  The variety of screen sizes across the different brands and versions of mobile devices presents a challenge because most standard websites appear muddled or are inaccessible to the trail-blazing mobile shoppers. As the faces of the Internet so quickly vary, many business owners are being left behind.

To allow customers to access their websites via smartphones and mobile devices, in addition to their main website designed for a desktop computer many businesses have built websites and apps customized to specific mobile platforms, using simpler graphics and smaller screen-size designs.  This duplication is not only expensive but also a maintenance nightmare as each separate website must be kept up to date.

How many websites must an organization build and maintain?  What if a single website could be accessed on any device and be seen the way it was meant to be seen?

Five years ago I attended a seminar that introduced the idea now coined “Responsive website design”.  Five years later, this idea has finally become a reality as Responsive website design is now at the forefront of website development.  A responsively designed website responds to the screen size of the device that opens it, and displays itself accordingly.  New brands and sizes of smartphone screens will not affect the site.  This allows me, a graphic designer, to build only one website and have my intended site design displayed with integrity to all my customers, no matter what smartphone, tablet or desktop they are viewing from: one design, one website and one set of changes and updates. These websites are sleek and user-friendly, and index well with search engines:  all the characteristics of a great website.

The Internet is now mobile and the number of people viewing websites on a mobile screen will only increase.  With the creation of QR (Quick Response) codes (a type of square matrix barcode that devices like a smartphone can scan for information related to an item), apps and now Responsive website design, this is an exciting and dynamic time for businesses to connect with their customers. Denying website access to customers who choose to search on their mobile devices makes no sense when such an easy and elegant solution as Responsive website design is available.


To view a Responsive website design, check out The Boston Globe who just did a site revamp or our website at On a desktop computer just resize your browser window and watch the site respond as you resize. On a mobile device view the site vertically then turn your mobile device horizontally and watch the site respond to the screen size change.


Eric Beal is a professional graphic designer (CGD) and owner of Start Communications who provides graphic design services to local and national clients.

© 2013