Responsive web design (RWD) is undoubtedly reigning supreme. Whether it’s a news site, a food blog or the latest smartphone app’s site, sites aim to give visitors a fluid, minimal design and user-friendly experience on their desktop or mobile device.
While a mobile-optimized design is necessary today, more and more sites using RWD seem to look the same. The repetition of this design approach is hard to ignore, but why does this design trend appear to dominate the overall look of most websites?
Designed for Everyone, Everywhere
Frameworks like Bootstrap make it easy for anyone to build a responsive site. Bootstrap even prides itself on being “designed for everyone, everywhere,” turning any site into a well-crafted masterpiece of responsive web design. As of September 2015, nearly two percent of all sites on the Internet were created using Bootstrap. This is an increase from about 1.5 percent of all sites just six months prior, in February 2015.
Take the two sites below, for example. On top is LiveRamp, a San Francsico-based data servicing firm. Under it is Trakt, a platform that tracks the television shows and movies you watch, while allowing you to see what’s trending among your friends and in your area. Arguably, these two companies are not working in the same sphere or with the same goal in mind.
Yet their sites, both built with Bootstrap, look undeniably alike. Each greets its visitors with a large visual and minimal text, followed by an infinity scroll.
The rising use of Bootstrap inevitably leads to more use of responsive web design across industries. When these tools are so readily available, there are bound to be similarities among all types of users.
Lean Outlook, Clean Output
Startups and responsive web design seem to go hand in hand. Startup activity rose about 10 percent between 2015 from 2014 — this growth reverses a five-year downward trend. With so many new, innovative ideas come more sleek, minimal and visually focused sites.
The prevalent use of responsive web design among startups may be the result of lean startup mentality. With lean startup mentality’s focus on releasing the “minimally viable product” as quickly as possible, some entrepreneurs do not invest the time or resources to develop a non-simplistic site.
The photo above is just one example of a startup using responsive design. Like LiveRamp and Trakt, Brewster, a beta app that organizes your contacts across platforms, utilizes a large visual with a simplistic layout and an infinity scroll.
Responsive web design lends itself well to the resources and immediate needs of startups, but also addresses their growth and long-term needs.
The Search Engine Shift
A major plus to adapting responsive web design is how much search engines will love a site. Responsive web design is essential to improving a site’s search engine optimization (SEO). Search engines tend to favor more simplistic and minimal sites and sites with only one URL.
With a clean design and one URL, a site’s chance of boosting its rankings in search engines increases, and ultimately improves its SEO.
Search engine giant Google rolled out its “mobilegeddon” update in April 2015, tweaking its algorithm to favor mobile-friendly sites. With Google now receiving more than half of its searches from mobile devices, a site that does not utilize mobile design could see a significant hit to its SEO.
Any business, be it a startup or an established corporation, wants to enhance its SEO. Naturally, responsive web design is a smart way to do so.
Here to Stay?
Most sites appear to use responsive web design now, but who’s to say what these sites will look like two or three years down the road? So many sites that effectively use this technique consequently inspire others to follow suit.
The sleek, minimal style of these sites may just be the ruling design trend at the moment. As search engines, business mindsets and framework accessibility evolve, we might see a shift in the way websites look. Whether or not they will still look the same is up in the air.