Everywhere you go, you’ll probably see a handful of people browsing on their mobile phones. These devices are so ubiquitous now, which means responsive web design is as relevant as ever.
But what is responsive web design?
It refers to an approach where the website is designed to adapt to a variety of devices and screen sizes. The principle is, your website can be viewed the best way possible according to the user’s screen size and resolution.
This wasn’t such a big deal before, when desktop computers were the norm for website browsing.
But now, with around 210.9 million users in the US accessing the Internet using mobile phones, and more than half of worldwide online traffic generated through these handy devices, the design approach has to suit the needs of these mobile users.
In fact, industry experts recommend that when you’re developing a website, it’s better to start designing for small screens first rather than for desktop computers.
And given that mobile users are increasing year after year, marketers would have to then push for responsive web design to reach target audiences. After all, you wouldn’t want to miss out on millions of potential visitors to your site, right?
Top Considerations for Responsive Web Design
Responsive design is not solely about the screen size. It factors in all the elements that make up a satisfying user experience altogether. These include:
- Fast loading time
More than half of the world still doesn’t have Internet access, and many areas that do have Internet are still unable to provide fast connections.
Adopting a responsive web design means optimizing a website for speed. Doing so gives key benefits for your brand.
For one, users generally don’t spend a lot of time waiting for a site to load – if your site does not load in four seconds or less, you actually risk losing 25% of your site visitors!
Search engines also judge site speed. Platforms like Google and Bing demote websites that don’t load quickly, and this applies for both desktop and mobile searches.
So even if your website is beautifully designed, if it’s not seen on the first page of the search results, chances are your target customers won’t be able to access your site.
- Choosing which features to showcase on a smaller screen
The importance of responsive web design is reflected on how you scale your site content. Because mobile screens are much smaller than desktop screen, you have to prioritize which features and content should be presented in such a reduced layout. And you have to execute it in such a way that it doesn’t reduce the user experience.
With that in mind, a mobile-first approach allows designers to focus on the essentials and leave more complex actions to an off-canvas menu. It’s not easy at all to prioritize primary objectives and gracefully tuck secondary objectives away, accessible only when needed.
Size isn’t just about the visual layout. Responsive web design also considers the size of tap targets. Unlike desktop browsing, where users interact using clicks, mobile screens enable taps. Because of this, designers need to determine the optimal size and location of tap targets, as well as the number of interactions required to complete a task (e.g. checkout process in an ecommerce site).
Providing a streamlined and simpler experience on mobile meets the usability and accessibility demands of consumers.
Best Practices in Responsive Web Design
To craft a website that embodies responsive design, here are some key features you can take note of to make your site adaptable to any screen size.
The viewport is the visible area of a webpage, and it depends according to what type of device a user has.
Because small mobile phones have smaller screens and have the largest usage percentage (22.6%), you have to scale down the entire page to fit screens smaller than the typical computer. Programs like CSS media queries can help you achieve this.
Another important tip is to set the viewport so that users can scroll vertically. Enable relative width values for page elements so that no element falls outside the viewport.
Breakpoints are the dimensions you add during web design so that certain portions of the layout will suit the screen size a person is using.
Granted that mobile phones have different measurements, you can capture the most number of users by targeting common heights and widths set for mobile phones. And as “mobile first” is the way to go, it’s recommended that you start with the smallest viewpoint and then expand to tablets and desktop screens.
- Multimedia and images
Images and multimedia add more substance to your site. But as with other elements in your design, they have to be responsive in order to keep your load time fast and still bring aesthetic appeal to your pages.
Responsive web design is all about meeting the demands of users. How do you make a website beautiful but contain high-resolution images and be able to load fast?
One solution is to include fewer images for your mobile friendly site. Again, you have to prioritize which elements are really important to be shown on a smaller screen.
Also, you can use SVG assets instead of JPG or PNG, as these are in vector format. They are resolution-independent and can be implemented for all screen sizes easily.
Meanwhile, you can place video files effectively by adding a “controls” attribute on the site. And always add multiple “<source>” elements that specify different video formats so users can choose the resolution.
The importance of responsive web design is much more pronounced in today’s mobile-driven browsing. But it’s not only about making your website fit smaller screens.
Therefore, understanding its key features and best practices is essential to make your site more accessible and appealing to your target audience.
The best responsive websites are those that offer streamlined and meaningful experiences – while keeping secondary actions accessible but strategically hidden.