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Responsive Web Design is the hottest trend in digital marketing

By Mike Rynchek

Trying to keep up with digital trends? You are not alone. Consumer expectations and consumption tendencies are changing at unfair rates. Allow me to put this into perspective. Nearly 20 percent of people in the world own some type of Smartphone as compared to 12 percent in 2011, while tablet adoption in the United States has already risen 31 percent in 2012 (according to Digital Trends).

So what does this mean in terms of advertising, and more specifically, the digital advertising space? We are all aware of terms like QR Codes, Social Media; the list goes on. Well, let me add one more term for traditional and online marketers alike. Responsive Web Design is so popular that .Net Magazine selected it as the no. 2 Top Web Design Trends for 2012, second only to progressive enhancement. No, Responsive Web Design isn't likely to show up on the nightly news, but let me explain how it can directly impact your business.

Let's start with the basics. What exactly is Responsive Web Design? From a high level, Responsive Web Design allows companies (in the majority of cases) to create one website which will work on the majority of browsers, and more importantly, the majority of mobile and tablet devices. In other words, the days of creating a website, a mobile friendly website and tablet friendly website separately are rapidly becoming a thing of the past.

By detecting the resolution size of the browser, whether on a PC or mobile device, we can now design and develop a single website which will scale to the appropriate size, essentially altering the design and content to neatly fit within that browser. Again, I will spare you the technical details, but it is crucial to understand the massive implications it can have for your organization. Yes, Responsive Web Design projects do tend to cost a bit more, but by designing and developing one website for all browsers/platforms, you save significantly. Keep in mind speed to market with a cross-platform solution is also significantly quicker.

The impact of Responsive Web Design within search engine results is also a significant benefit. Pierre Far of Google recently announced that Google would soon join Bing in recommending the use of Responsive Web Design. By only having one URL (.com), Google can now more efficiently identify your online presence and more accurately crawl your content. In short, designing and developing your website with Responsive Web Design will also help in your Google and Bing organic search rankings. Why is this important? Within the last year, mobile search traffic alone has more than quadrupled, meaning if your website is not optimized for mobile consumption, you are losing out on clicks and potential revenue.

Like any emerging technology, Responsive Web Design does have some drawbacks. To effectively design a user-focused website for both thumbs and clicks is no simple task. Designers must understand cross-platform challenges including usability, device limitations and load speed. Clearly, bandwidth speeds continue to increase, as does the speed of the devices themselves. However, with recent device updates such as Apple's widely- acclaimed release of their Retina screen (essentially HD for your device), image clarity as it relates to file size now comes back into play for most designers.

Finally, the content rules are different. Standard web design rules are far more relaxed. Content elements, such as video, are far more trivial for a single medium versus a polished video for a PC, tablet and Smartphone. The end goal for marketers is to preserve as much of the design, usability and content delivery without losing the user experience.

To most, Responsive Web Design may seem like a natural progression in the digital space, but keep in mind that consistent branding and messaging across mediums has given marketers headaches since the caveman days.

Since the genesis of marketing, the "consumer first" mantra has been in place. Not only is Responsive Web Design better for savvy and novice digital consumers alike, it also presents benefits to marketers as well. Marketers who are "in the know" understand the cost savings, additional consumer reach and search benefits. Because of this, companies are racing to update their digital presence. Though not a perfect art form yet, Responsive Web Design is quickly becoming the new standard and shows no sign of fading in the near future.