More and more people access websites, transact business, and connect with their social networks through their mobile phones or tablets. From only 31% in 2015, mobile traffic now represents half of the entire internet traffic worldwide (StatCounter, 2020). This figure is expected to further increase as the current total of 14.02 billion mobile devices used to access the internet is predicted to reach 17.72 billion by 2024 (The Radicati Group, 2020).
For businesses, organizations, influencers, and other groups that rely significantly on the internet traffic to reach their targets, communicate, and remain relevant, their websites must have responsive designs to attract and keep customers. If a website is not responsive to whatever device visitors use, they stand to lose 60% of internet users (Meta, 2018). In this article, you can learn more about what responsive website design is, its advantages, and how you can implement it.
Responsive Web Design: Table of Contents
- Understanding Web Design
- What makes a web design responsive?
- Benefits of Responsive Web Design
- Basic Codes for Responsive Web Design
Understanding Web Design
The Interaction Design Foundation (n.d.) writes that web design is a term that refers to the design of a website. It is concerned with the visual appearance and the functional design of the website.
Previously, web design was focused only on making visually appealing designs for display on large screens such as computer monitors and laptops. Now, it encompasses designing sites for smaller screens such as smartphones and tablets.
Who is responsible for web design?
The person responsible for making and maintaining the web design is a web designer. TARGETjobs (2020) describes a web designer as an individual who plans and creates websites and web pages. Part of the job is to ensure that text works together with media like pictures and graphics, videos, and sounds or music.
The same website further explains that web designers can work on completely new sites or pages or they can maintain an existing site and its pages. To that end, they need skills relating to web development and knowledge in programming languages like HTML. Of course, they also need to be imaginative, creative, detail-oriented, and patient to produce a web design that can catch the attention of users.
5 Things to Consider in Designing Web Pages
There are essential features of web design that designers have to consider when planning (Babich, 2020). It can be overwhelming but the process can be simplified. Below are some of the important considerations when beginning to work on a web design:
User flow is the path that website visitors will take when navigating a web site. This is a journey from the first page they land on the website to the action you want them to take next. If your website is a webshop, then you want them to keep browsing for items, add them to their cart, and eventually complete their purchase.
By specifying what you want visitors to do, then you can easily determine the user flow of your website.
Design of Individual Pages
When designing individual pages, you should keep in mind what the objective of a page is. That can help you with planning, creating, and overseeing your website and its pages. One main thing you have to consider in the process is to avoid information overload. To prevent or minimize that, you can apply techniques like chunking or dividing a huge chunk of content into several smaller ones for easier digestion.
Designing for Mobile
By the end of the third quarter of 2020, mobile device website traffic was 50.81% (Clement, 2020). While it was lower than the numbers of the first and second quarters of 2020, it is still considerable. That is why it is necessary to design websites in a way that they can adapt to screens of mobile devices seamlessly.
To match today’s standards, websites need to be accessible to all people regardless of their abilities. As such, web designers have to think about how to make websites accessible even to persons with various impairments. A few considerations are for those with poor eyesight, color-blindness, blindness, and motor impairments.
How do you make sure that your website’s pages are functioning as intended? You can do that by testing. Some of the things you need to test for are page loading times and A/B testing for design versions. Once you are finished with testing, you can hand off your design to developers who will make it a reality.
What makes a web design responsive?
A responsive web design (RWD) means that a website adapts its content to different devices and browsers, as Sarabdani Tafreshi and colleagues (2017) explained. Marcotte (2010) further explains that RWD utilizes a “flexible foundation” consisting of fluid grids and flexible images; future-proof non-fixed layouts.
Thus, rather than create designs for different devices, it is more optimal to design for the best viewing experience. That is, with the help of standards-based protocols that allow designs to adapt in whatever medium.
Differences Between Responsive Design and Adaptive Design
While it may seem like the two are interchangeable, there is actually a difference. Responsive design, as Graham (2015) explained, can “respond to the size of the browser at any given point”. That means that regardless of the width of the browser, the layout of the website changes according to the size of the screen. Therefore, if the browser is 480px wide, then the website will adjust its elements accordingly. When designing, you should also factor in the most used browsers, of which Google Chrome is the most popular (63.38%) followed by Safari (19.25%) by the end of December 2020 (StatCounter, 2021).
On the other hand, adaptive design means that it changes according to the width of a user’s browser in specific areas. It is only concerned with the size of the browser and not the size of the screen, according to the same writer. For example, if you are using a desktop, you can still view a website well even if you change the size of the browser to half of the screen or any other size.
Responsiveness vs. Loading Speed
In 2017, Think with Google (2017) revealed that visitor bounce rate increases to 123% if a web page takes 10 seconds to load. Because of that, website owners race to optimize their site speed to reduce the likelihood of losing visitors.
But how does the loading speed of a page relate to responsiveness? Should web designers prioritize one over the other? A web page could be responsive but it could be slow to load. For the two to strike a balance, it is necessary to minimize the elements needed for the initial load. This means that web designers have to prioritize showing first the content–text, images, styles—that are required to catch visitors’ attention. Other assets can follow, Mozilla (2020) suggests.
The site also added that web creators have to prevent font file delays, as it can be detrimental to the user experience. But if it is used right, it can improve the user experience instead. Another thing that web designers should do is to ensure that all interactive elements are always interactive. They have to make certain that they do not lag. To put it into perspective, website visitors perceive something as laggy “when they take more than 50ms to react.” Lastly, it is critical to design task initiators to be more interactive.
Source: StatCounter, 2021
Benefits of Responsive Web Design
Enhanced User Experience
With a responsive web design, website owners can raise their conversion rates to 400% (Hogan et al., 2016). That is because users can see your website as intended regardless of the device they are using to view it. A responsive design allows users, whether on desktop or mobile, to navigate your site seamlessly. Thus, they would be convinced to stay and to come back.
Reduced Cost and Maintenance
Before RWD, there was mobile web. Site owners had their web designers and developers come up with mobile versions of their websites. That practice is more costly in both time and money. When RWD came into being in 2010, it enabled designers and developers to come up with sites that can work on both large and small screens. Therefore, the workload was cut down. Additionally, it became easier to manage one responsive website than two versions of the same site with the same contents (Rashid, 2017).
Google’s algorithms take into consideration the responsiveness of a website’s design in indexing it. If your website is responsive, then it makes it easier for Google’s processes to index it accurately (Google Search Central, n.d.). On top of that, it allows Googlebot to be more efficient when crawling your site. This leads to Google being able to index more of your website’s content.
Faster Load Time
As mentioned above, site speed can affect the visitor bounce rate. When you apply the techniques in increasing the load times of your pages, then you can attract more visitors to your site. Best of all, you can boost the possibility of return visits.
Clunky websites belong to the dark ages of the internet. Responsive web design keeps your site fresh and up to date. You can also make page elements interactive to engage users, provided they do not interfere with site speed.
Basic Codes for Responsive Web Design
There are many ways that you can make a web design responsive. There are simple ones and then there are more complex ones. However, there are also crucial methods that cannot be skipped when actualizing RWD, such as the ones below.
The primary ingredient for RWD is the viewport. Adding a simple <meta> tag can make a huge difference! This will instruct the browser to optimize the dimensions and scaling of the page as necessary (W3Schools, 2020).
Media queries tailor the presentation of a website to specific output devices’ dimensions. These do not change the content itself—rather, it optimizes the display of your website.
According to CatsWhoCode (2020), there are various types of media queries. Therefore, it can be difficult to have one single code for everything. However, the website shared a functional example for tablet landscape display and tablet portrait display.
One of the things that make a design responsive is how liquid the layout is. Google Search Central (n.d.) suggests that rather than specifying the width of elements, it is best to utilize max-width instead. And instead of putting in the height, code in min-height.
Similar to images, videos can also be made responsive. A common strategy is to employ aspect-ratio (Henson, 2020). While this is nothing recent, it is still very useful.
Breakpoints allow fluid grids to adjust their sizes and content to be rearranged, swapped, or even hidden depending on the browser size or the device screen size. While it is not possible to define breakpoints for every screen size now and in the future, it is still possible to delineate average breakpoints.
Here are some sample views of how text seamlessly responds using an RWD application:
Sample when viewed from large screens such as desktops.
Sample when viewed from medium-sized screens like tablets.
Sample when viewed from small screens like a smartphone.
Create the Most from Responsive Web Design
The number of devices with varying screen sizes today is staggering that it is impossible to make a different version of a website for each of them. But with responsive web design, you can create one website that can render on all devices. Designers and developers would suggest that you go forward with a mobile-approach when planning and creating a website. That makes sense, as it is easier to scale up than to scale down due to the lack of viewing space, Schwarz (2010) noted.
After which, you can think about the average screen sizes of devices or screen resolutions. Once you have those figures, you can incorporate them easily into your codes. Next, you have to consider whether visitors can view your website well using their favorite browser. To note, Chrome has the highest market share among web browsers.
Additionally, make each element responsive. That also covers typography. When layouts and assets are fluid and adaptive, you can ensure the best presentation for your website.
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