What is Responsive Website Design?

I’m sure you’ve noticed it by now, this site has had an overhaul, but it’s not-any-old-redesign, it’s a responsive design.


So what does responsive mean and why should you have a responsive website?

Responsive Web DesignTo answer this, we need a reality check and a little history to what’s been happening over the past few years.

Smaller screen sizes are becoming more & more popular, on any given day I’m likely to have used, an Android phone (two browsers, inbuilt and Chrome), an iPad (two browsers also, Safari & Chrome) and a desktop on numerous browsers, Chrome, FireFox, IE 8 and Opera and by 2014, it’s expected that mobile Internet usage will overtake desktops.

Before responsive designs were common place, website owners would make a different layout tailored to different devices. For example a design just for the iPad or iPhone and another for the other widely used devices such as the Android browser or the Blackberry.

I took that approach a while ago on this very site almost exactly one year ago when I launched a mobile version of this site, using a customised theme for smaller devices.

The problem with this approach is that you end up having multiple sites to keep updated.  One small change meant more than one set of files to update and that not only an administrative nightmare, it would usually be costly too, as each design was separate so your design fees were doubled, trebled and even more…

One answer to this problem is to use a “Responsive Web Design” or RWD for short. This is a single design that is made up of special elements and use of the @media tag in CSS (CSS is Cascading Style Sheets, they are what makes this page look pretty). Using this tag and special elements, the same design is then used for all browser screen sizes.

Try it for yourself

Assuming you’re using a desktop to view this article, if you now take this website in your browser window and start resizing it downwards you’ll see the site to change, but the overall look and feel has stayed the same.

If you’re on a mobile device, change the devices orientation and you’ll see the resize itself to the windows width.

Neat eh? That’s a responsive website in action.

There is a fantastic slide show by John Polacek (from whom also I borrowed a screen shot from for the image at the top and the image above) which you can view on responsive web design here:

So why should you have a responsive web site?

Simple, one set of files to update for all versions of the site, for small and medium sites this is ideal and also pretty cheap.

When planning your next eCommerce website, the key question to ask the web designers is:

“Is the site responsive?”, if the answer is no, look elsewhere.

The exception to this rule is for massive sites such as eBay or Amazon, then server side components is a better approach and you can learn more about that here and here.

What do You think of Responsive Sites?

What do you make of this sites redesign and do you love or hate responsive designs?

Let me know in the comments box below.


VIDEO: “Linking Obvious” A Basic Introduction to Web Usability for eCommerce Sites

This drove me so “nuts”, I’m sharing this video with you, so you don’t make the same mistakes and I’ve got a simple rule that you can never fail with for usability on your website.

Hit play below on the video below to see what this rule is:

As I mention in the video, it’s purpose is to demonstrate some very straight forwards points for you to look out for on your own website and if you design your website so that a 6 year old can use it, then a user of any age & experience can use it and that’s gotta be a good thing right?

If you design your website so that a 6 year old can use it, then a user of any age & experience can use it

In the video I discuss “action colours”, these are soooo important to get right on a site and confusing customers with multiple button colours, placements and not using them at all at key stages makes the user think.

This sounds wrong, but we don’t want out customers to think, we want the customer to just follow the item flow all the way through to the checkout pages and it’s our job as website owners to make this as easy and intuitive as possible for them.

Learn More

If you’d like to learn more about website usability, then there are two books on Amazon that are must reads. I’ve got them both and they’re never leaving my office.

The first is “Don’t Make Me Think” which has lots of examples and is super easy to follow, the second is called “Call to Action” and it’s remarkable how many sites just get this wrong or not even at all! Both on Amazon & available on the Kindle.

Oh yea… Lookout this afternoon for our 8th Podcast, the topic’s timing is brilliant, it’s fulfilment!

Foretelling The Future of Commerce In 10 Years Time

This week eBay announced that they are expecting the mobile sales on the platform to reach $5 billion USD. This is set to outpace their earlier prediction by a cool 25%. But I don’t believe its going to stop there.

In this article I attempt to foretell the future and see how deep Alice’s rabbit-hole could go with regards to commerce in 10 years time.


Before I make an ill-fated attempt at this, we need to understand some background changes that are currently underway. These are:

  • Apple
    While sadly Steve Jobs passed away, I feel that this is just the end of the beginning for Apple and we have not seen the back of them just yet. It’ll be the devices that this company creates that will be a strong player for most of my predictions.
  • X.Commerce (eBay + PayPal + Others)
    eBay have launched X.Commerce and are going to be making headway into the multi channel marketplace with their recent addition of Magento and a few other local based services (Milo for one). Also, I am making the assumption that PayPal will release contact-less payments to facilitate growth.
  • Alibaba
    Alibaba has bought Auctiva and Vendio, but still has money to burn. This is a dark horse and in my predictions this is the biggest unknown.
  • Amazon
    Amazon is a pure brute and has continuously showed growth regardless of economic situations or challenges from competitors. Amazon will for sure still be around, but I’m not entirely sure how deeply.
  • Peoples Lust for Funds
    More & more people want to break free of the 9-5 routine. This is exceptionally true of the nimble, motivated, educated teenagers that are currently in education right now and the older generations (in their mid-40’s) who are looking for additional retirement funds. While “niche of niche” will give them a fighting chance, the biggest wins will be made in face-to-face services & transactions.
  • Disjointed Service Suppliers
    There are a lot of disjointed service providers that have not worked out that they can work together to bring a larger selection of products when working together than perhaps the larger marketplaces can do currently.
  • The High-Street
    High-Street retailers are starting to “grow a brain” and as more & more board level exec’s realise (“realise” probably a better term than “grow a brain”) that the current (and new) marketplaces are viable channels, that the current list of ~100 well-known brands that are already using eBay will explode.
  • Data Usage & Mobile Handset Usage 
    Global mobile data traffic will increase 26-fold between 2010 & 2015 (source)
    Mobile handset adoption is slow but steady, even with 18 and 214 month contracts slowing the pace, we will see more & more people with ‘smartphones’ and as per the statement above, people’s lust for doing what people do best, communicate, will probably drive this figure much higher.

There are many more influences that are currently underway, Google is one that I have neglected to mention, this is because I feel they will remain as a facilitator to one or more of these or will be replaced by another, however I’m focusing on the above to attempt to make a stab at what the end-game could look like along with some gut-instinct.

My 10 Predictions For Commerce in 10 Years Time

Firstly I can’t tell the future & I certainly don’t have a crystal ball (unless you count a jar of cider), however an amazing topic covered in a book called “Blue Ocean Strategy” (aff link) I recently read has helped me focus & gain clarity on numerous topics.

Part of the identification process of a “blue ocean” is to predict where you consider the natural conclusion of where an environment will go to in the future and commerce is a curious one. Also note that I have left 4 predictions out of this public version as I will be leveraging these personally.

Below are 10 of my personal expectations for commerce, for 10 years time:

  1. 50% of all transactions will be online
    The vast majority of western consumers will have a mobile device that allows them to surf the internet, as such they will hold 50% of the marketplace for all transactions involving goods & services.
  2. Mobile will dominate
    The mobile networks will have rolled out 4, the Internet (especially mobile) will become ultra rich in both written & video content. Mobile devices from one or more of the above will be huge players in this.
  3. Augmented reality will rock
    Augmented reality applications will be real & widely used, especially in gaming. Internet gaming is fun and we’ll see more games like the ones laid out here but augmented reality will become common place for transactional sales. Imagine pointing your phone at a shop and seeing the entire contents in the device before you even enter.
  4. Gestures will be common place
    Gestures to mobile devices will be a reality. Think a cut-down version of kinetic from the XBox. The device will recognise the user and respond to not only voice commands that we already have, but gestures of intent too.
  5. Shock-Horror the desktop will survive
    Consumers will still be using desktop & laptop computers. I mention in the video that cloud computing does not have the grit to do so, this is actually incorrect you can do this via cloud computing, however even in 10 years time, product manufacturers (like Sony or Dell) will still be making the traditional desktop or laptop computer.
  6. The 1st new marketplace
    There will a two new formidable marketplaces, the first will come from the growth of Alibaba and the trade direct from Eastern countries, because of the cost advantage will be hard to beat locally.
  7. The 2nd new marketplace
    The second will come from software providers that already hold the keys to numerous merchants and platforms. If the data held was combined into a single marketplace and solving the other fundamental obstacle of “eye balls” (getting people to view the items/site) then this could be a huge contender, as its the re-manipulation of existing data from existing merchants.
  8. Same day delivery will be available for £1.00
    Same day delivery will be inexpensive & widely used (we’re already seeing this with food providers, Eatsy & Just Eat). Think a mobile version of a highstreet, where instead of going into store, the store will be online and that item you like, will be with you in 30 minutes at your door. Convenience on steroids.
  9. The high-street will still exist
    High-street retailers will still exist, but will be more dynamic & responsive to customers requirements virtually. Interrogative means, such as video to view the products will be widely spread and leveraging the above factor in competition with the online marketplaces, speed of delivery will become a huge factor for them (think of a large food retailer with same day delivery in London) because there will always be a desire for a product or service “now” (or in 30 minutes).
  10. The Revolt
    There will be a revolt against eCommerce and companies that leverage this into a face-to-face commerce situations, such as farmer’s markets will have an amazing time (and highly profitable) with this. People will start to demand a closer, more personal relationship with their suppliers and face-to-face will always rock.

Your Thoughts

Am I a million miles away from what we’re seeing already, what do you think?

Use the comments box below.