The rise in multi-device culture has turned responsive web design into a standard practice when it comes to designing any website. Designing a responsive website is no longer a good to have feature but rather a must-have requirement.
Before going into the specifics of how to design a responsive website, let’s start with the basics of what responsive or mobile-friendly design really means.
What is responsive design of a website?
A mobile responsive website in simple terms is a website that automatically detects the device that the user is browsing from and adjusts the layout to conform to the device specifications and result in enhanced user experience.
The aim of responsive web design (RWD) is to provide a consistent user experience irrespective of the device used. It aims at minimizing zooming, panning and scrolling when the user accesses the website from a mobile or tablet browser. It reduces the confusion, results in smooth navigation and most importantly enjoyable user experience.
Why is designing a responsive website a critical business requirement?
Mobile responsive websites are an important part of the user experience. In this ultra-competitive era, your business simply cannot afford to have a non-responsive website.
Mobile devices and its users now constitute a huge segment of traffic coming to your website. Providing these visitors a satisfactory and consistent user experience across devices is critical to your business’ longevity.
Conventional websites which are not mobile optimized end up looking cluttered when opened on the smaller screens like mobile phones and tablets. In responsive sites, the layout is restructured ensuring that the users can easily view the content and navigate through the site on the mobile screen on different devices with varying screen sizes.
Given the amount of effort your organization must have put in to get the traffic to your webpages, you certainly don’t want to drive away potential customers browsing your website through mobile phones by giving them a buggy user experience.
Another important consideration that makes the incorporation of responsive design practices crucial is the effect of mobile-friendliness on the SEO rankings. Since the introduction of Google’s mobile-first indexing, how the website functions on mobile devices also determine how it ranks on Google’s search rankings.
1. Move from pixels and inches towards grids
Rather than basing your website design over fixed sized pixels, adopting fluid grids results in liquid layouts that expand with the web pages. The elements on your website are sized proportionately by the grid rather than limiting them to one particular size in case of pixels.
The flexible grid is capable of dynamically resizing to fit the different screen dimensions. The grid isn’t based on pixels or percentages and is rather designed in terms of proportions. All the elements in the layout resize their widths in relation to one another depending on the size of the screen being displayed on.
Grid view divides the web page into columns that make it easier to place the elements on the page. Flexible grids do half the work in responsive design but if the width of the browser window becomes too less in case of smaller screens, having a design that runs across two or three columns won’t do the trick. Use of media queries becomes a must in such cases.
Click to see: Example of simple responsive website HTML & CSS no JS used for google guideline to load faster.
2. Make use of media queries and breakpoints
Media queries allow you to optimize the website layout for varying screen widths. The content responds to the different conditions on the different devices while the media query checks for the width, resolution as well as the orientation of the device being used and the appropriate set of CSS rules are then displayed.
Media queries use the @media rule to include a block of CSS if the specified condition holds true. It can be used to exclude certain elements if the screen size is lesser than the desired width making the layout more appropriate to be displayed on different screens.
Media queries can also be used to introduce breakpoints in different parts of the design to make it more mobile optimized.
3. Always use a viewport
The area of the web page visible to the users is the viewport. It varies depending on the device the website is being viewed on. Incorporating the viewport with a meta tag the browser gets the instructions regarding the page’s scaling and dimensions.
Use of meta tags saves the user browsing on a small screen from having to scroll horizontally or zooming out excessively to view the content thus boosting the user experience on smartphones. The width of the viewport can be determined by making use of media queries thus allowing the developers to go into the specifications of different browsers or device orientations.
Incorporating mobile-first design is also a good strategy to adopt when you design a responsive website. It involves using styles targeted at smaller viewports as the website default. You can then use media queries to add styles as the viewport grows thus saving precious bandwidth.
4. Make the website touch responsive
The size of icons in the web design has to be large enough to result in comfortable touch targets when accessed via handheld devices. Responsive websites need to be designed keeping both mouse clicks as well as finger taps in mind.
When designing for mobile, it is tempting to make greater use of the screen space available to you by putting in more number of elements and condensing the size of the buttons, it is imperative that you design for human fingers and keep the design touch responsive. According to the material design guidelines, the buttons should at least be 36 dp high to ensure accessibility.
When incorporating input fields on the mobile website, make sure that the touch targets are large enough to let the users tap and finally convert. Make sure that the design and color scheme incorporated makes the buttons stand out. In case you are designing for eCommerce websites, keep the checkout process friction-free to ensure maximum conversions for your business.
5. Optimize the media for mobile
Managing media whether images or videos on the mobile version of your website is one of the most challenging parts when you design a responsive website. In case of images and videos, it is recommended to use the max-width property.
When optimizing image and video size for mobile, set the max-width to 100% and height to auto. The image would scale down depending on the screen it is to be displayed on.
In the case of background images, set the size as “contain” and it will scale and fit the content area. The image size must be low and the images need to be compressed in order to ensure faster loading websites which is critical from an SEO point of view as well.
6. Don’t miss out on responsive typography
Typography is the cornerstone of web design. In order to make the content appear effective when it is displayed across the mobile devices, the font sizes must be optimized for mobile as well.
Use of pixels to define the font size works when working on a fixed-width website but in case of responsive websites, a responsive font is a must.
CSS3 specifications include a new unit called rems which are relative to the HTML elements which results in the entire web page adjusting dynamically depending upon the viewport width of the browser.
7. Rely on the experts
Let’s get real, responsive web design is no cakewalk. Along with the technical know-how, one needs to have in-depth design insights. The design followed by coding needs to then undergo rigorous testing across a range of different devices to ensure that every element is in its place and is functioning correctly.
Using drag and drop builders doesn’t really result in experience-rich websites and the risks associated with hiring a freelancer to work on your design and development project is always high.
Hiring a responsive web design and development company that specializes in creating exceptional digital experiences is going to be your best shot at designing a mobile-friendly website.