Responsive Web Design is, simply said, a web design approach aimed at crafting sites to provide an optimal viewing experience. RWD makes a website easy to read and navigate with a minimum of resizing, panning, and scrolling, across different browsers and platforms (desktop to tablets to phone) based on fluid grids, flexible images and media queries.
But why should you care about Responsive Web Design?
Previously, sites were chiefly designed for desktops. But the mobile web has became more popular. According to statistics the mobile internet is expected to overtake desktop internet usage this year. This makes it necessary to design websites that are flexible and can be viewed from almost any device.
Additionally, if you care about SEO – and you should! – you get more SEO juice by using uniform URLs.
Considering of this quote from the Google Webmaster's Guide:
Google recommends webmasters follow the industry best practice of using responsive web design, namely serving the same HTML for all devices and using only CSS media queries to decide the rendering on each device.
So, it really sounds like a perfect solution for the mobile age. But there are some facts you should keep in mind.
Load Time and Performance
Responsive websites are nearly identical in download size regardless of device or screen resolutions. This means, viewing a responsive website on a smaller screen and displaying less visible content or smaller-sized images, doesn't mean that the site will load faster.
Mobile devices and browsers will have to deal with a lot of content. Sites should be careful to avoid loading unneeded CSS, running specific scripts and download large images.
A good implementation is possible, but it also means more complexity than developing a fixed width desktop site.
Time and Money
Higher level of complexity means also higher development cost.
The days where a designer's work is done with a simple mock-up in Photoshop is gone.
Designers, developers and clients have to work together even closer. Design changes by designers or clients can lead to a large amount of development time. A good workflow can help keep costs low.
Is responsive web design the right way?
I believe responsive web design is a trend, but I wont to say that it is the ultimate or the future solution at all.
The web and it's technology is growing, it brings more improvements and more functionality nearly every day.
But do not misunderstand me. I love responsive web design, and I think it is the right tool for the web as it is right now.