It’s as if the car is anticipating what you need. The same can be said for responsive web design.
Responsive design is aimed at providing the best user experience across a broad range of platforms, whether you are browsing from your PC, your laptop, your tablet or your smartphone. It’s born from the idea that we use multiple screens to view content, and that this content should automatically respond to match your screen size.
It’s important your business’s website, like a car steering wheel or brakes, is responsive. So let’s take a look at what responsive design is, why you should use it, and how you can implement it on your website or within your existing design.
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What is responsive design?
For modern websites, a pleasant user experience is centered on responsive design. Fifteen years ago, everyone surfed the web using a desktop computer with a monitor, but these days there are many more choices.
The aim of responsive design is to make the user experience as good as possible across those devices, even though the design may look slightly different. For instance, you may present information in one column on a smartphone and two columns on a laptop, but the branding and content will remain exactly the same.
Responsive design promises minimal scrolling, panning, zooming, and—most importantly—confusion. It makes the experience enjoyable for everyone, no matter what device they’re using to view your site.
You want your website to look just as good on a 4-inch smartphone screen as it does on a 17-inch laptop. That’s what responsive design can deliver.
Why use responsive design?
Creating a great user experience is essential to any business’s longevity. And believe it or not, your website is an extension of your physical business.
When customers walk into your shop, you might greet them, offer them a hot beverage, and ask them what questions you can help answer. That’s all part of creating a great experience that will make that customer want to return.
The same idea is true on the Internet. The more enjoyable and easier a customer’s experience with a website, the likelier they are to stay there, browse, make a purchase, or even return again later down the line.
Think about your own experiences online. Would you ever return to a website that took a minute to load, didn’t appear properly on your mobile device, or just flat out refused to work. No way! This is one big reason why you should make your web design work properly on all devices—and responsive design is the key to doing this.
Additionally, as of April 2015, Google considers whether or not a website is mobile-friendly as part of its search engine algorithms. This means that sites that are responsive are much more likely to rank highly in any given search than websites that aren’t. So it’s definitely in your best interests to make your site responsive!
How to implement a responsive design
Now that you understand what responsive design is and why it’s so important to business owners with a website, here is a brief responsive website how-to that can guide you through making the necessary changes to your site.
1. Adopt a fluid grid
Years ago most websites were laid out based on a measurement called pixels. But now, designers have shifted to using a fluid grid.
A grid sizes the elements of your site proportionally, rather than making them one specific size. This makes it easy when sizing things for different screens: the elements will respond to the size of the screen (that is, the grid), not the size they’re set to be in pixels.
A responsive grid is often divided into columns, and the heights and widths are scaled. Nothing has a fixed width or height. Instead, the proportions depend on how large the screen is.
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You can set rules for this grid by modifying your website’s CSS and other code.
2. Allow for touchscreens
These days even laptops are shipped with touchscreens. This makes it essential for responsive websites to be designed with both mouse and touchscreen users in mind.
If you have a form that contains a drop-down menu on a desktop view, consider styling this form so it is larger and easier to press with a fingertip on touchscreen devices. Additionally, remember that tiny elements (like buttons) are very difficult to touch on smartphones, so try to implement images, calls to action, and buttons that display properly on all screens.
3. Decide what elements to include on small screens
Responsive design does not mean replicating your website exactly from one device to another. You are looking for the best user experience, and that may mean you need to leave things out when someone looks at your site on a very small screen.
Responsive websites often condense their menus or navigational options into a button that can be opened with a single press. The menu may display expanded on a large screen, but can be opened through this single button on a small one.
Again, you can set rules for including or leaving out certain elements by modifying your website’s CSS and other code. This may take some time to set up, but your visitors will absolutely appreciate it!
4. Think about images
Image sizing can be one of the most challenging aspects of responsive web design. You will need to create rules in your CSS that determine how images are handled on different screens—whether they are made to be the full width, or removed, or handled a different way.
5. Try a pre-designed theme or layout
If you are not a designer by nature, you may need extra help converting your site to be responsive. The good news is help is available.
If you do not have the time or the desire to design a responsive website yourself, you can “cheat” by using a theme or pre-designed layout that does the work for you. This means that all you will have to worry about doing is updating the colors, branding, and content to match your company’s needs.
If you use WordPress, there are plenty of both free and paid themes available that are responsive right out of the box. The same applies for many leading ecommerce providers who offer themes on their site.
6. Outsource your project
If you don’t use WordPress or a hosted ecommerce website, you may find it impossible to locate a pre-designed theme to use. Or you may simply want a design that better matches your specific needs or company branding. Well, you can always hire someone to create something custom for you!
A web design company like WebFX has experience designing responsive sites. In fact, all the websites we create are responsive right out of the box! This means you’ll never have to worry about redesigning your site to be mobile-friendly (unless there’s something else you want to accomplish, that is).
You can also try hiring a freelancer to redesign your site, but make sure to check their references as this is an advanced job. Designing responsive websites requires a strong background in web design. This is not an area where you want to cut corners on price. Make room in your budget to pay for someone to do a thorough job so you do not have to revisit this issue again six months down the line.
Responsive design is crucial for the long haul
Responsive design isn’t a trend or fleeting preference—it’s a long-term strategy that you need to invest in. Screens continue to evolve, and your website needs to meet the needs of every browser no matter what device they use.
By making your website’s design responsive, you won’t have to worry about new technology rendering your website obsolete. No matter what new thing comes along, your site will be prepared. That will not only save your sanity and preserve your budget—it will also keep your visitors happy.
We’ve given you a lot of tips to making your website responsive here, but we understand that some of them may be too technical for you. So if you’re interested in finding out how WebFX can help make your site responsive, reach out to one of our web design experts now for a free, no-obligation quote. We’d love to hear your ideas and help meet your unique needs!
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