Rather than having separate versions of a website for a phone, tablet and computer, responsive design seeks to unite them, having ONE website where its layout responds based on the user’s device.
This can take the form of a multi-column desktop grid morphing into a single-column layout, big fonts getting smaller, or hover-activated menus responding to taps on a phone.
After some debate on whether or not to adapt content based on the user’s device, the consensus is that a user on a mobile device should have access to all of the information on the desktop version. In other words, you don’t get to decide which device a user should use to visit any content on your website—they do. That being said, there are no hard and fast rules, so look to your users to help guide your decisions.
The goal is to reach users, wherever they live, whatever device or browser they use, and serve them our content in the most efficient way possible.
Recent trends in web design are fundamentally defined by three principles: being content-oriented, UX-centered and simple.
From a user’s perspective, the difference is that they have access to all of the content from any device. There is no “full site” link on the mobile version, and no auto redirect to a mobile site from a tablet. The user doesn’t have to zoom in on the site from their phone in order to read the content. The full site, no matter the device, fits in a usable way.
The traditional website design process, on the other hand, is changing—different workflows are being tried out until a new normal arises. For instance, many designers are choosing to forego static mockups of pages and focus on prototyping in the browser directly. Some designers create initial mockups and talk through how the content will adjust for different devices.
Gone are the days where every element is in a precise location, at a precise size on every device and in every browser. Designs now have to adapt to the user, and our tendency toward pixel perfection has to be quieted in favor of a more flexible, responsive view of websites.