What is actually a responsive website design?


The term “responsive design” has arisen in connection with the ever-increasing spread of smartphones and tablet PCs and their access to the Internet, respectively to individual websites.

Before these internet-enabled mobile devices existed, web design was actually relatively simple. The web designer knew that the user was sitting at a desk, in front of him a monitor in the usual sizes. Alternatively, the user used a notebook. The web designer was able to develop new designs relatively easily. As long as they looked good on the usual monitors, everything was fine.

With today’s mobile devices, especially smartphones, web designers now have to consider screen sizes that are only a fraction of a large desktop monitor, namely the displays of these smartphones.

OK, the interested layman might say, then why not develop a website in such a way that it adapts to the size of the existing display, i.e. practically constricts itself in the case of a small display and uses the entire size in the case of large displays.

This is a good starting point but works at most on tablet PCs. On smartphones, the whole website is still displayed properly this way, but everything is much too small, especially the text is no longer readable. This forces the user to constantly zoom into the screen, which is of course annoying. A website then looks something like this:

The “responsive design” deals with the solution to this problem. This involves developing a website from the ground up so that it looks good on all end devices. The main way to achieve this effect is to define the width of a website in percentages rather than a fixed number of pixels. Existing images are scaled-down and the text is adapted via CSS so that it is also easily readable on smartphones.

The advantage of this solution is that, in principle, you only have to develop one website.

Another solution is to develop two websites. One for the standard desktop PCs and another one for the mobile devices. The mobile version can then usually be found under a URL mobile.my-website.de.

The disadvantage of this solution is that you practically have to develop and maintain two websites. In addition, this solution causes problems with the search engines if you simply go there and use identical texts on both versions. This creates the so-called “double content”, which Google does not like to see at all. But there are also solutions to this problem.

Which of these two approaches is the right one can actually only be judged in individual cases? If you are developing a website from scratch, then “responsive design” should be used. If you already have a website, but do not want to give it up completely, then the development of a second website, which is only responsible for smartphones, would certainly be more sensible.

Now that we have seen what you can do wrong, we will now come to the 5 basic elements of good web design.


When you set up a website, for whatever reason, the goal should be to get visitors interested in the theme of the website and guide them through the simplest possible link structure when exploring your website. Any confusion that arises during this process will lead visitors to leave your site as quickly as possible.

This premature leaving is exactly what you should avoid with a clever web design strategy. These five elements are an essential part of a powerful web design strategy.

1. The navigation is simple.

Your website must be easy to navigate to be successful. At the top of the list of consumer complaints is always this topic. Try to make it as easy as possible for your visitors to go to the different pages and then to find their way back to the last page they saw or the home page.

2. The layout is clear and clean.

Especially do not overload your start page with elements. Less is more. Avoid everything that is glaring, blinking, or otherwise fidgeting around. Avoid Flash if possible. Remember that different fonts can be problematic on certain computers, so use fonts that you know almost certainly are installed on every computer. These include Arial, Verdana, Times, Courier and Trebuchet MS. If you want more visually appealing typography, you can choose from the many fonts that Google provides for free. However, this may slow down the loading speed of the website even more, as external elements (the fonts) have to be loaded.

3. Take into account the different screen resolutions of your visitors

Not everything that looks good on your PC looks good on the user’s screen. You don’t do much wrong with a centered page format, which has a maximum width of 800 to 1200 pixels. Be sure to think about how your website will look on your visitors’ smartphones and tablets. The latter usually cause fewer problems. However, a completely new approach is required for the display on smartphones. In this context, please also read the section “What is actually Responsive Design”.

4. Reduce the loading time of your website

This applies especially to the start page. A common mistake in web design is to create fancy pages that take far too much time to load completely. The average visitor waits about 3 to 4 seconds. If the page he or she is visiting is not fully loaded, he or she will most likely click away. At http://tools.pingdom.com you will find a very good tool to measure the loading time of your web pages. By the way: The lowest possible loading speed of a website is now a quality criterion for Google. Also, read this article about reducing the file size of your images!

5. Inform yourself about new techniques.

The only constant on the internet is fast change and the constant change. Therefore, work with a web design that will still meet the requirements in the near future. Avoid layouts that are constructed by tables. Better use CSS-based layouts.

If you take these five basic elements to heart, then you are already a good deal further along the way to an almost perfect website.

Want to learn more about website design?

Subscribe to our newsletter to receive the latest posts notification!