It’s hard to count all the types of screens and displays that exist now. The number of their sizes and configurations is truly huge, and people use them for various purposes.
The more screens people use, the better software should adapt to them. The quality and detail of the visual elements should stay the same across all user’s devices, from a smartphone to a high-resolution monitor. No matter if it’s a complex website with lots of screens, animations, and pictures or if it’s just a simple landing page with one button – everything must look good.
How can we complete this task? Use responsive web design!
Well, the definition is pretty simple: responsive web design means that your website will look good and be easy to use on any device. It mostly applies to mobile and desktop devices, as they constantly change in their sizes and proportions.
For example, the latest screen sizes on smartphones always seem to be increasing. Moreover, foldable and flexible displays appeared, and they brought new challenges to designers and developers.
Responsive web design was invented in the early 2000s, and Ethan Marcotte was the first to use this term. He described the theory and practice of responsive web design in his book named Responsive Web Design in 2011.
The basic idea behind how responsive web design works is like this: Your website should adjust to the needs of your users based on the device they are using at any given time, and provide the relevant functionality for the type of device.
For example, a website of a bank can have two layouts with two different focuses: Their mobile layout can focus more on viewing numbers and balances, while the desktop layout might more prominently show financial operations like transfers.
Going further with the banking analogy, responsive web design needs to give users the ability to perform the same operations on a mobile device that they would want to perform on a desktop or a tablet. It would be strange if one of the website versions didn’t have the full functionality, wouldn’t it? Your designers should account for different screen sizes by changing fonts, input fields, and other layout elements accordingly.
Mobile device use has exploded in the last ten years, and most people access the internet through mobile platforms. The number of smartphone users is only increasing with time, so making your website mobile-friendly is really important.
Additionally, the proliferation of IoT (Internet of Things) devices is increasing, with smart fridges, washing machines, watches, printers, speakers, and even houses allowing users to access the web. If you want to capture these consumers, you need to create a website that looks good and works for the devices they use.
Responsive websites are more popular with users. Websites with prominent social media features that can be accessed on mobile devices are more likely to be shared by consumers.
Conversely, if a user can’t access a site with their desired device at any given time, it’s more likely they’ll look for an alternative (your competitor, to be precise) that does support their device.
Finally, responsive web design is good for SEO and search result rankings. Google is now favoring websites that pay more attention to mobile optimization for smaller screens. The platform has stated that their search algorithm vastly prefers the simplicity and layout that a single URL responsive website offers. Separate websites for mobile or other devices spread out those rankings.
When you have implemented responsive web design, it’s time to create responsive content! When creating content for a responsive website, it’s important to divide it into small digestible chunks. Users might be viewing one block of text or image at a time, or they might want to devote a large screen to it. Your designers and engineers should communicate with your content creators and discuss all the details like:
In general, the shorter and more modular the website content is, the better it will be perceived by users. This will prevent content from looking ugly or being inaccessible on your site. Such an attitude will save designers from having to do the task of reformatting content, and engineers – from rebuilding the website’s pages.
Responsive web design is a constantly evolving practice. It can be really difficult because creating responsive web design involves writing code and testing on multiple devices. This designing process is hard to achieve because it requires tight communication and cooperation across multiple departments.
Designers and engineers should know how to implement the following elements of responsive web design:
It’s important for content creators to understand the limits of the design, as we outlined in Guidelines. Finally, you need a robust QA environment equipped with multiple devices to ensure your design and content work together as smoothly as possible.
Responsive web design is a practical method for meeting the evolving needs of users with various digital devices. It requires a 360-degree awareness of customer needs, design specifications, engineering practices, and content creation. Companies that can achieve responsive web design can access a growing consumer market that has not yet been fully tapped.
Get weekly updates on the newest design stories, case studies and tips right in your mailbox.