A dive into the fundamentals of responsive web design and why you need it

The concept of designing a website for the PC as the sole medium has turned into an ancient practice. Mobile phones have seen enormous advancements in technology making them addictive devices that everyone loves. The smartphone has become the primary way for businesses to achieve engagement and conversions.

In these times, businesses that used to offer web design services for a single medium, now face the challenge of creating websites that are compatible with a variety of devices. Apart from mobile phones, these devices also include tablets, iPads, netbooks, and other devices. This is a massive task requiring the resolutions and graphics to be modified so that they fit the screen of any device and give optimum website experience. This is where responsive web design becomes relevant.

What is Responsive Web Design?

When simply put, responsive web design enables your website structure to adapt to different screen sizes. This adaptability is fluid and aims to duplicate the website experience of a large screen onto a smaller screen. The process is remarkable and enhances the user experience on all different screen sizes.

Responsive websites are given preference by search engines over traditional websites. This is also great for SEO and further stresses the need for responsive web design. There are Web design and development agencies all over the UK that are offering responsive web design services.

Here is a comparison of how our site looks in static vs responsive design:

Principles of Responsive Web Design

On the technical side, responsive web design works primarily on 3 defining principles which are as follows. You can also check out a full guide on these principles and responsive web design in general.

  1. Flexible grids: These allow for the content to be resized dynamically to fit the screen using a technique called relative sizing. For images, it makes use of CSS instead of pixels.
  2. Media query: This is a CSS technique that enables a website to detect different devices which helps in fitting the page on the screen. The page is able to adjust itself as different screen sizes are detected.
  3. Flexible media: This allows for the use of adaptive images that can scale to fit various different screen sizes and resolutions.

Here is a look at a few websites using these principles.

Things to keep in mind when designing a responsive website

1.   User experience

User experience is the key aspect to keep in mind when designing responsive websites. Your aim should be more than converting a desktop site into a mobile compatible site. Always consider how a user wants to interact with your website and the content they are looking for.

2.   Avoid designing for the latest mobile devices

Instead of keeping a specific screen size in mind, design your website around the content. This helps in keeping the content uniform for all the different versions of the site.

3.   Flexible Images

You have to analyse the scaling needs for your images when viewed on different screen sizes. How the image will look like on a desktop screen vs a tablet or a mobile screen is an essential question in the development process.

4.   Navigation

Another important aspect to think about is navigation on the mobile web site. You will have to decide on a method for collating large menus i.e. using a hamburger style menu vs a dropdown menu or you could have tabs that scroll horizontally.

5.   User Engagement

The layout of your website is a super important factor that enhances user engagement, especially on a mobile device. While the desktop experience can be distractive due to a large space to work with, the mobile experience is more focused and you only have limited space. Thus, your layout should clearly dictate how a user moves around your site to find the content they are looking for or understand what the site is all about. As an example, if the goal of your website is to get people clicking on a specific ‘get quote’ button then it should not be hidden down the page under heaps of text.

Importance of Responsive Design in Web Design services?

What would happen if we made multiple versions of a website for all the known devices out there? Well, the answer is that it would not be practical and require a lot of time and money. Moreover, all of these sites will be prone to ineffectiveness when a new technology comes along in the future. In this regard, responsive design is a great way to future proof your website.

The decision to create a responsive design is based on your audience and the devices they use to get to your website. You should know about the number of mobile vs desktop users in your traffic. Statistically, the number of smartphone users at the end of 2019 was around 2.9 Billion which is expected to be over 6 Billion at the end of 2020. In April 2020, 50.47% of the total web traffic in the UK was mobile traffic, desktop traffic was 43.04% whereas tablet traffic made up about 6.49%. These numbers should serve as a motivation for pursuing mobile-friendly responsive designs.

A look at the Pros and Cons of Responsive Web Design

We have discussed the fundamentals of responsive web design. Now, let’s take a detailed look at its pros and cons.

Pros

  • Google recommends businesses to create responsive web designs for their sites. When Google recommends something, it is a good idea to listen to them.
  • Instead of managing content separately on the different versions of a site, you can have one set of content for a responsive website.
  • You save tremendous time, effort, and money.
  • Having different versions of a site frequently requires users to be redirected to the site that matches their device. Redirects are hectic and require advanced knowledge in server software configuration.

Cons

  • Making changes to an existing website to make it responsive is expensive and requires code to be rewritten.
  • Suppose a visitor comes to your website using his phone and is interested in finding a specific product as fast as possible. He will have a hard time finding that product because the responsive design will prioritise adjusting the layout leading to a smaller space to work with. It will take the user more time to find this product on his phone when compared to his desktop.

Responsive Web Design – FAQs

1.  How can I make my website responsive?

To make your website responsive, make use of the following practices

  • Adding meta tags in your HTML document
  • Media queries should be applied to the layout
  • Embedded videos and images should be made responsive
  • Ensure that your content is easily readable on mobile

2.  What does it mean when a website is fully responsive?

A fully responsive website gives the best quality experience to the users regardless of the device they are using. It is flexible and can adapt efficiently to multiple display sizes.

3.  How do I make my media queries responsive?

Follow these three practices to make your media queries responsive

  • Apply style based on device characteristics using media queries.
  • To ensure the broadest experience, you should be using min-width over min-device-width.
  • Avoid breaking the layout by using relative element sizes.

Conclusion

While responsive design has a bunch of advantages, not everyone is willing to implement it.

It is mostly a matter of goals that you have for your website.

However, in our opinion, every website new or existing should absolutely implement a responsive design.

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