The latest thing in websites is responsive web design (RWD). This new design promises a website that will automatically create an optimal viewing experience on any sized screen from a smartphone to a desktop computer. RWD is great news for website globalization strategies, since you can now create websites that will conform to whatever device is most common in a particular country.

Responsive web design and the rise of smartphones and tablets

Many non-experts confuse responsive web design with the ability of a site to re-scale to different size screens. A website with true RWD actually changes its appearance depending upon screen size, rearranging its elements to fit the device. You can tell whether or not a website uses responsive web design by changing the size of the window on your browser. When you get below a certain size, the webpage will remake itself to fit, as in this example:

Education Above All website desktop size

Education Above All website tablet sizeEducation Above All website phone size

If you want to globalize your website for an international audience, responsive web design should certainly be on your radar. In many countries a smartphone is the most likely device for people to use to access the internet. In the U.S. itself, 56% of adults have smartphones. Nielsen reports that smartphone penetration has reached 87% in Hong Kong and Singapore, 80% in Malaysia and 71% in China and is increasing rapidly in other countries in the Asia Pacific region. A TechCrunch article predicts that most Africans will have smartphones within four years.

And we mustn’t forget the tablets and mini-tablets that are quickly becoming ubiquitous. A Forrester blog article predicts that 60% of American consumers will have tablets by 2017, in Europe 42% will have them, and worldwide one in eight people will own one.

Responsive web design and website globalization make great partners. Having a website that is in different languages and that is capable of displaying appropriately on many different devices  gives you the ability to reach the largest audience. However, don’t underestimate the complexities involved. Next week we’ll look at some tips on designing responsive websites for translation.

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