What I have found recently was, that there existed some strange belief that if a website based on WordPress non-responsive theme is visible on mobile phone, it means that the used theme is responsive. Obviously, something is wrong here, because the mere possibility of viewing your website on mobile browser doesn’t mean that it has responsive WordPress theme. On the other side, if you can not see your website on mobile browser at all, it doesn’t mean, that WordPress theme is non-responsive one, it means instead that your website can be down because – let’s say – web hosting failure, or because you don’t have internet connection.
So, what does responsive WordPress theme or responsive web design mean? To explain it in very easy way, I will use simple example. Let’s say, we have a three columns layout. Can you comfortably see and read text or other content in three columns when you use desktop or laptop web browser? Yes, you can. But can you read text squeezed in three columns on iPhone or most smartphones? Obviously, you can not.
BUT – WAIT. Well, at this point some people can disagree. They say, that you can use two fingers to enlarge the screen to read text. This is fact. YOU can do this, but it means that you FORCE your website USERS to do it. And, somehow, usually, the less they have to do to get what they need on your website, the better – better for you. YOU can exercise fingering on your smartphone screen even with 5 fingers, or more if you like, but save your online users. What I write now can be weird, and strange, but: try to think about your online users like about creatures which have one hand for holding smartphone and the other one hand HAS ONLY ONE FINGER. And based on this assumption, try to ponder upon possible layouts and navigation options for mobile devices and one-finger-website-users.
However, let’s go back to our analysis, what should the three column layout do to be called responsive? Well, it would be nice if it would rearrange the three columns to place them one under another one, so they all are in one vertical line, which makes text easier to read because now you can use bigger font and vertical scrolling can be done comfortably with one finger. Or it would show just one column, but with two additional large buttons, to load two other columns. It would be also welcomed, if the mobile/responsive layout could rearrange navigation changing drop-down-and-hover-and-show-50-other-items-with-small-font menu style into something more practical making possible to reach menu items via bigger buttons and just by simple clicking. Bear in mind, that we talk here about MOBILE phones or mobile, small devices, which are used mostly on move, or sometimes in severe weather conditions. Responsive design should help mobile users in website navigation.
As you see, more or less, responsive WordPress theme or web design rearranges navigation and content making website usage more user friendly on smaller displays.
Brutal truth is, that if you can see your multi-column website on iPhone exactly the same like on desktop or laptop displays, it means most probably, that you don’t have responsive design. Or, at best, responsive option is not activated. On the other side, almost all themes or frameworks can be customized to behave in responsive way. All this depends on website content.