When you consider how often you use your phone to access the internet, it’s no surprise to learn that 90% of the global internet population are mobile users. In fact, more than half of all internet traffic comes from mobile devices. Responsive website design ensures your website adapts to all device sizes.
With responsive design, you can be confident your visitors get the best impression of your business and always experience your website as you intend.
What is Responsive Web Design?
As the internet became more accessible on smaller screens like iPhones and tablets, web designers had to adapt. They started creating mobile versions of websites alongside traditional desktop versions. It quickly became impractical (and costly!) to create and maintain new versions of the same website for every device width.
Additionally, mobile versions of websites were often much more scaled back and provided a lesser experience to the user. Consider if your customer can’t find the information they are looking for on your website because they are stuck navigating a low-quality mobile version. They will most certainly go elsewhere.
A responsive website uses a universal design that transforms automatically to correctly fit every screen size. Responsive web design suggests design should respond to a user’s behavior, whether they are using smaller or larger screens, or viewing your website in portrait or landscape orientation.
What About Mobile-First Responsive Design?
The concept of a mobile-first approach was present before responsive web design was even defined. The early idea was to create simple websites for mobile phones and small devices and then enhance them for tablets and desktops. This is the opposite idea of starting with a complex site that adapts itself for mobile.
Mobile-first design emphasizes the importance of the mobile view, but responsive web design emphasizes the same quality experience on all devices. Responsive web design incorporates the mobile-first concept, but it encompasses much more.
Responsive vs Adaptive Design
Another similar concept to responsive web design is adaptive design. Instead of formatting one universal design to multiple devices, adaptive websites have multiple fixed designs optimized for every device. This approach can allow a designer to get very specific to meet the needs of different device users.
Adaptive design can be useful for certain websites, but it is a lot more work for the designer to create and maintain. Plus, responsive web design is rewarded by search engines and creates a better user experience because of its consistency across devices.
Good Design Matters
Website design is about more than just what looks good. Responsiveness and accessibility matter — and they can impact how well your website performs. Some benefits of responsive design include:
- Better SEO: Google values accessible content, so responsive websites are rewarded in search rankings.
- Better Usability: A responsive website makes it easy for your visitors to find what they are looking for and interact with your site, even if they are using a mobile device.
- Faster Load Speed: Page speed is another SEO factor, and good design positively impacts loading speed.
- Lower Bounce Rate: A website that looks the same on desktop and mobile can be difficult to navigate on small screens. Responsive websites eliminate this issue and stop your visitors from leaving quickly.
Ingredients of Responsive Web Design
Responsive design adapts to all devices and creates a similar experience no matter what device is being used. The phrase “responsive website design” was coined by Ethan Marcotte in 2010 (A List Apart). He explicitly spelled out the key components for responsive design as:
- Flexible Grids or Layout: Your website is usually laid out in columns. A responsive website design will include columns that automatically rearrange themselves to fit the size of the screen or browser window.
- Flexible or Responsive Images: If your website is using this concept correctly, you’ll notice images scale down but never scale up past a certain size. Setting the max-width of an image to 100% allows adjustments to its size if the column containing it is made smaller.
- Media Query: This aspect of responsive design is coded into your website and enables the responsive layout switch. Instead of locking in one layout for all screen sizes, it can change. Sidebars rearrange or alternate navigation is displayed for mobile phones and small screens.
The key element of responsive web design is the flexibility of your business’s website content. All the elements of your website should be present (and in good quality) on all screen sizes and devices.
How Do I Know if My Website is Responsive?
If you want to confirm you are using responsive design on your website, one place to start is with a mobile-friendly test. After you plug your website into the mobile-friendly test, you should enable to see elements that are responsive – or not.
You can also evaluate the following elements of your website to determine responsiveness:
- Navigation Bar: Responsive sites will condense the menu options on smaller screens. Too-small text across the top of the page is not responsive design. Check to see if your menu is cut off because of the screen size.
- Images: Responsive website design will scale down images and keep them aligned with the rest of the design. A sure sign your site is not responsive is if you see giant images out of alignment on a smaller screen.
- Fonts: If you have to pinch on a mobile screen to read the text, the font size is too small and is likely not responsive.
- Forms: Similarly, if you have to pinch and zoom in to fill out a form on mobile, it is not a responsive design. Imagine how frustrating zooming in and out and trying to complete a form can be. This is a poor user experience for your potential customers.
- Buttons: On smaller screens, your website visitors are likely using their fingers to tap buttons. All the buttons, including the “close” button on any popups, need to be easy to click using your fingers.
How Can I Implement Responsive Website Design?
If you manage your website using a DIY website platform, you’ll need to understand the concepts of responsive web design in order to implement them. On some platforms, this will require you to toggle between desktop view and mobile view as you build your site. Other platforms will guide you with image and text best practices.
Implementing responsive design on your website means taking the time to understand how all your website elements will appear on different devices. Or, it means working with a website company that puts your customers’ experience first and always utilizes responsive web design.
A Responsive Website Design Will Include:
- Text sections that fill the page
- Aligned design elements that are easy to digest
- Menu options are visible without zooming
- Navigation bars in the form of a “hamburger menu” until expanded
- Forms that expand to fill the page
A Website That is NOT Responsive May Include:
- Text sections that do not adjust and seem too large or small for the screen
- Forms that remain small and require you to zoom in to complete
- Navigation bar elements are small and difficult to click
- Images appear out of alignment compared to the rest of the web page
- You are able to scroll left to right on the page
Make the Best Impression on Your Customers
Ultimately, you want your website to positively reflect your business. Responsive web design ensures your customers get the same high-quality experience every time they visit your website – from their phone, computer, or tablet.
It’s also important to remember, responsive design on your website improves your visibility in Google Search. You have the potential to reach more customers and make the best impression every time.
If you don’t have time to get into the weeds with responsive design, we’ll handle it for you. Chat with our team about the Best Websites solution for your industry.