Responsive themes basically follow the responsive website design approach that aims to make websites that provide optimal user experience on different screen resolutions and devices like desktops, tablets, mobile phones and other devices. A good responsive WordPress theme perfectly adjusts itself on a given resolution and screen size.
Responsive themes give better usability and readability on small screens like smartphones. It also saves you from the hassle of making a device-specific version of your site. Before the era of responsive website themes, websites would need to have different versions for different platforms like android, iOS, Windows etc. Responsive theme lets you have the same site to be opened on different devices without the need of having additional plugins etc.
An ever increasing amount of people are using internet via smartphones and tablets. This is the reason why there is an exponential increase in responsive themes that are being developed by WordPress themes organizations. If a good amount of visitors see you website via a mobile device, then you must give a serious thought to switching to a responsive theme.
Layman Definition of Responsive Website Themes
When it is about coding and designing the WordPress themes for your mobile device, you have the following four options.
Old School Web Design
Design your website at a standard web size such that it is ideal for desktop usage. In this case, you are not considering what device your visitor is using for seeing your site. This isn’t a good idea to go for when looking at usability.
Old School & A Mobile Site
In this case you would make a desktop version of your site and along with that code an entirely new site for mobile visitors. This second website would function and look completely differently. This would need more coding, a high price point for launching, and more time to time maintenance.
Old School & a Mobile Plugin
Make a site as in the first case but add a simple mobile plugin to make a scaled down website version for those visiting through mobile. In this scenario, the user would not be able to access or see the same content on the desktop. The word “may” is used because it is totally dependent on which plugin you are using.
Use a Responsive theme
In this case, the theme is coded as responsive when made. The site will adapt itself automatically to the device size. Here no separate site or plugin is required as it is made as responsive just from the start. This is for sure the best way to adopt as it would provide maximum benefit to your users. Moreover, it is the cheapest option since you don’t need to worry about two different sites.
If you own a website, it is your call to choose which route is the best for your particular situation as well as budget. While responsive theme may be a nice idea for new sites, but it may not be a good idea for those with already existing sites and low budgets for making modifications.