The Ultimate Guide to Responsive Web Design

It is indeed true that the days of designing websites for only desktops are bygone. The need for mobile websites and sites that can be accessed from various devices are paramount today. This can be well understood looking at the browsing we do from our smartphones. This is where responsive web design has become a compelling necessity rather than a fad. It gives you the flexibility and optimizes the viewing experience whether you are looking at it from a 4-inch smartphone or a 40-inch TV screen.

In simple terms responsive web design (RWD) allows the design, images, and the code to accommodate the screen size of the device in which the site is displayed. For the designers and the developers, the challenge is to tailor the website’s user interface and the user experience across varied devices and platforms.

It is important to estimate what portion of your current traffic is from the desktop, mobile or tablets. It is a fact that a considerable part of the traffic would access your site from the mobile phones. Over one-third of the world’s population is estimated to own a smartphone by 2018. According to estimates from TechCrunch by the year 2020, there will be 6.1 billion smart phone users globally. Thus, website design for mobile phones are critical and appears to be most important.

A site need not only be designed for different devices but what makes it more critical is that it should accommodate with varying web browsers. Each web browser has its mobile version, and they tend to render the websites differently. Not only that there are different versions of the mobile web browsers that need to be considered as well as it’s not possible that everyone would be using the latest version. So, it’s necessary that the design of your website responds and works on different devices, screen sizes, web browsers, and versions.

Advantages of Responsive Web Design

Enhanced User Experience (UX): It is a long-term solution for enterprises as the website adjusts to any screen sizes like mobile phones, tablets, desktops or any other device.

Sharing/Linking: There is only one URL for all likes, shares, tweets, and inbound links.

SEO Advantage: A single URL accumulates all the links, page authority, page rank, etc.

Low Maintenance cost: Once a responsive website is ready there is a requirement of very little maintenance as opposed to higher maintenance of a separate mobile website.

 Challenges of Responsive Web Design

Impacts load time: The users have to download the HTML/CSS code, and as images are scaled down most of the time and not resized, it increases the load time.

Hurdles for development: Developing a responsive website takes more time. Converting an existing site to RWD is even more complex and time-consuming.

When does using RWD make sense?

When the user intent is not significantly different on the mobile phone and other devices with your website containing fewer than 50 pages, RWD can be a great solution to improve users’ mobile experience. If your site doesn’t have too many page types like article page or category page with the same user intent on different devices RWD can be considered. If the site is complex, with a lot of page types but with same user intent and you are planning for a redesign of your site, RWD can be a feasible option. On the other hand, if different users have different goals while using from different devices RWD may not be a good fit.

UX is the key:

While designing a responsive website, users’ interactions and their experience should be the key consideration. The required content the users would be looking for should also be curated properly with an effective user interface for those using a mobile device. RWD is about creating a great UX for other devices rather than converting a desktop website into a mobile one.

Adopt a flexible design:

Instead of designing a site for the latest mobile device with specific dimensions the design should be built around the content. The layout and the elements working on the desktop should comfortably adapt to mobile devices.

Images should be flexible:

In designing a responsive website, care should be taken to ensure that the images are flexible and would be tailored to the scale. The underlying code should allow the images to scale according to the size of the screen through a percentage value.

Navigation is important:

Large menus and content should be properly collated for different screen sizes. Whether it’s a simple drop down menu, hamburger style or with expand/collapse fields, tabs that scroll horizontally could be used.

User engagement is crucial:

Care should be taken in ensuring that the users get the message clearly and easily understand what the website is all about. The main intended user action on the page should be the determining factor in designing the page. The CTA buttons should be accessible with the thumb as people access pages on mobile phones with their thumbs and it should be clear and distinct.

Ease of interaction:

It is a fact that people love interacting with their fingers in reading the content on a mobile device. Empower the users by enabling them with enhanced interaction with fingers. The size of a person’s finger should be taken into consideration in designing a useful and interactive UI solution. The industry standard of a comfortable tappable UI element is 25 px. Although the layout and the UI elements have to be designed keeping in mind the mobile phone screens they should be flexible enough to create a pleasurable experience on all devices. If the audience uses many devices of different sizes, fluid scaling may be appropriate in providing a better experience to a large number of users on various devices.

Key Takeaways

  • Responsive web design gives your site the flexibility and optimizes the viewing experience whether you are looking at it from a 4-inch smartphone or a 40-inch TV screen.
  • Responsive web design is about creating a great UX for other devices rather than converting a desktop website into one that is compatible with mobile phones.
  • In designing a responsive website, care should be taken to ensure that the images are flexible and would be tailored to the scale.
  • Empower the users by enabling them with enhanced interaction with fingers.

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