The Reason for Responsive Web Design

Look around you, and I'll bet you'll see people accessing the Web on a variety of different devices, most of which have different screen sizes: a 5-inch iPhone, a 7-inch Android tablet, a 13-inch laptop.

The ways people access the Web can no longer be easily divided into just desktop versus mobile phone. When we create websites, we have to think about tablets and all combinations possible among those sizes. And we also have variable interfaces like the new Windows operating system, where you can control the size of your Web browser even on a tablet.

This all means there's no longer any one-size-fits-all approach to Web design. There's not even a three-sizes-fits all approach. The types of devices and the myriad of sizes that need to be supported grow almost daily. That’s where responsive Web design comes in.

Device Sizes

Responsive design means that the page automatically adjusts the way it looks for optimal use on the specific screen that a visitor is using. This makes text and images more readable and ensures that the device can handle the content we're asking it to display. A form can be as easy to fill in on an iPhone as it is on a 22-inch monitor.

Mobile & Tablet 40.87% [March 2014]Responsive design is becoming increasingly important for us as more people visit on mobile devices. The stats continue to go up dramatically. A couple of years ago, 10 percent of the traffic to might have come from mobile devices. Now, the combined traffic from tablets and mobile devices represent over 40 percent of the overall.

We are putting the effort into responsive design not because it is the latest trend in Web design, but because it aligns us with our institutional strategic priority of performance. Thanks to responsive design, visitors are better able to accomplish their goals on our site. The bottom line: Responsive design improves the way our website works for our visitors and for us. We consider it a critical component of serving the institution and its mission.

Our Approach

Applying responsive techniques at an enterprise level is no easy task. contains more than 70,000 pages. The skillsets of editors across the institution vary widely. The content management system contains more than 50 templates to enable a variety of presentation formats.

For these reasons and more, we've set a goal of delivering responsive design to 60 percent of overall page views by the end of fiscal year 2016. We're focusing first on the most visited areas of, because it enables us to create the most consistent experience in the places that matter most and reach a variety of audiences — areas like the centralized faculty profile directory and health library as well as strategic areas like the school of medicine’s curriculum and admissions pages.

Ultimately, we must also ensure that 100 percent of is fully optimized for mobile, tablet and desktop devices. This goal will require additional commitments across the institution, and those are commitments that we will be outlining as we work with individual editors in the coming year and as we lay out a broader strategic plan for the years ahead.