Responsive website semantics: let’s avoid discussing multiple “versions” of a site

Let’s be careful when discussing responsive websites to never describe them as having multiple versions. Let’s always talk about the desktop layout or the desktop view, the mobile layout or the mobile view, but never the desktop version or the mobile version. A responsive site is one site that has multiple views, or variable layouts, depending on screen size.

I’m a stickler for this kind of semantics, because it’s extremely important that we use the right terminology in front of our clients. When we talk about responsive websites and accidentally describe them as having multiple versions, clients begin to think they’re dealing with multiple sites, i.e. a desktop site and a separate mobile site. I once explained responsive websites to a client who then told me they wanted one piece of content to launch on the desktop version of their site before it launched on the mobile version. I had to explain again that this wouldn’t be possible because this isn’t how responsive works; responsive is (obviously, to us experts) one website. This concept is complicated enough when we’re using the right terminology, and it’s much more confusing when we’re carelessly using the wrong terminology.

Words matter. Let’s be careful to talk about these things correctly. It makes us look smarter and helps our clients understand what we’re selling them.

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