If your brand relies on a web presence and your website is not optimized for the latest mobile devices, you might be doing yourself a great disservice. As the popularity, affordability and ubiquity of mobile devices continues to rise, more and more people are using these devices to access the web.

As website standards and browsers continue to improve, however, it’s becoming easier to build mobile-optimized websites — as opposed to purpose-built apps — to accommodate users who are visiting your website through their mobile phones. Since it’s no longer an option to just have a desktop version of your site, and if creating a mobile app is simply out of your reach, consider building your website with responsive design instead.

Let’s take a detailed look at exactly what responsive design is, what it entails to build your site in accordance with its design principles, and why you should seriously consider this option when formatting your website for the growing number of mobile-enabled users who are visiting your website.

What Is Responsive Web Design?

Unlike many other advances in website design, a responsive website is more of a set of principles rather than a specific technology or type of code. In 2010, Ethan Marcotte published an article that has gone on to become the foundation of the entire movement. In the article, Ethan explains that the idea behind responsive web design is the marriage of a set of techniques and ideas that form an entirely different type of website.

As mobile devices started to establish a strong footing in web traffic, designers began creating watered down text-based mobile websites, or creating device-specific sites. While this concept provided a degree of customization and compatibility, it also forced developers to maintain multiple versions of any given website: a desktop version and a mobile version.

The concept of responsive design, on the other hand, allows a brand to maintain just one version of its website that automatically adjusts its layout depending on the type of device being used to access it. For example, while large buttons and wide images may be displayed on an iPad or Kindle when accessing your site, the same site can also display scaled down images without having to keep an entirely separate version of the site for smaller screens.

Prepare for the Future

One of the biggest hurdles for mobile web development is the great degree of unknowns. Today, consumers are using the latest and greatest technology and expect the same level of innovation from the websites they like to visit. Responsive web design allows you to account for the unknown.

Since the principles of responsive design remain flexible and can be integrated into your existing site’s code, the introduction of different display sizes should pose no threat to your website’s design. Since these design principles are based on CSS, HTML and Javascript, making small tweaks or adding new features can be accomplished almost instantly with just a few lines of code.

Save Yourself Time, Money and Energy

When designing your company’s website, it’s important to keep in mind that choosing to make your website responsive is a decision you need to make up front. Since responsive design is quickly becoming the standard for new websites, finding a web designer who is familiar with these concepts is key.

By integrating the principles of responsive design into your main website, you save your entire team the time and effort involved in updating two websites. By only having to maintain one website that is compatible with any computer or device available, you can devote that time and energy to content creation and the mission of your business. You’ll also save yourself the costly fees associated with application platforms.

Keep Visitors Coming Back

Whether you are trying to reach a larger audience, provide a more custom user experience or just want to continue to provide the latest and greatest for your customers, responsive web design is not just a passing fad. With a complete change in design principles and management techniques, response web design is here to stay. If implemented properly, responsive design will provide you with a website that’s prepared for future devices and the expectations of your customers.

[Image credits: Chasing Daisy, OcjessUxmosis, AutomaticDefence401K2012, Omaromar]