Responsive Website Design – Why It’s important

Mobile phone browsing is no longer an option. With the internet increasingly accessed from mobile devices, it’s no longer enough to have a static website design that only looks good on a computer screen. Besides, mobile phones may not be the only challenge. You have tablets (with varying screen sizes) and laptops or desktops with different screen dimensions and processing power. Mostly, having some areas with good network speeds and others with slow bandwidth, you are dangling your chances dangerously loose if you created a website only meant to suit desktop uses.

Therefore, creating content and dumping it on a single column hoping for a positive outcome is as much as over-expecting returns whilst you have overlooked the essential to-dos in web design. In this article, I will go a long way to explain what web responsiveness is, what it has to do with your business and its importance for your digital life.

With responsive web design, you can make sure your website looks its best on cell phones, tablets, laptops, and desktop screens. With little knowledge of web design and digital marketing, you know just how important site responsiveness is to user experience. Essentially, brands depend heavily on their websites to do what their physical stores are unable so as to complement income. By extension, brands rely on their websites to attract, guide, inform, convince prospective buyers and convert them into customers.

Based on this small illustration, you see how challenging it is to create one tool that can integrate all customer care and management services and manage by a milestone. These tools are built on the back of one single principle: the user, which of course, is branched out to create a plethora of other principles that target the user and their experience on the particular platform.

Responsive Website Design

To understand why and how important site responsiveness is, we need to stack from the background. How does someone design a responsive website? After understanding what and how we shall then learn why. Website responsiveness goes back to web design in the process of web development. When web developers talk about web design, they mainly focus on the user experience facet. This includes its layout, appearance, and responsiveness.

How a website is designed is essential since it is the first impression to the target audience. It’s, therefore, worth a great deal of investment to ensure that the design incorporated in your website is one that serves your audience’s needs. So, what is a responsive website, how do we craft a responsive site, and why do we do it? I’ll answer these questions using much smaller elements as we advance in the discussion. Let’s start with what?

What is a Responsive Website Design?

Literally, a responsive website is one that works flawlessly regardless of the device being used. Essentially, a responsive website design is an approach taken at site development that aims at diversifying the user experience on different devices in a way that the website response is seamless regardless of the behaviour of the end-user. Therefore, whether users decide to use a desktop, laptop, or mobile phone, the site’s components fit perfectly on the different sizes of the screen on the particular device.

Alternatively, you can define a responsive website design as an approach to web design that makes your web content adapt to the different screen and window sizes of a variety of devices. Basically, in the event that you can access a particular site on phone, tablet, and desktop without challenges means that the design was well-executed.

In practical terms, you may want to cover as much content on the webpage as possible so as to avoid paying more for the creation of extra pages. This is only possible on the desktop, bearing in mind its screen size. Say you try to use similar specifications for the mobile phone; it becomes hard for users to read and interact with the content.

I am not saying you should not separate or arrange your content in columns or rows or layouts – because such kind of organisation is required; I am for the idea that you should craft and execute an outstanding responsive design to realise all these and still have a flawless website.

Web design is majorly the user experience; your designs form the first façade of what is held in your site. With design being your face, you have no other option than to make it the centre of focus. Every development and customisation will require following these precise principles set in the design.  Web design forms the basis upon which your visitors will judge your platform. This tool being your primary impressionist, it is worth a great deal of investment to ensure that the design incorporated in your website is one that serves your audience’s needs.

Briefly, how does it work?

Technically, a responsive website design applies percentages for optimum running. Contents of the web content such as images and texts are assigned ratios and proportions that give the user a suitable experience on different devices. Depending on the screen size, resolution, colour capacity, and other device specifications, it utilises JavaScript and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) to serve different style properties that ultimately give you a responsive website design.

How different is responsive web design from adaptive design?

A responsive design is one that adapts the delivery of a single-page version, whilst the adaptive design delivers multiple different versions of the same page. They are both crucial web design trends that help webmasters control how their site looks on different screens, all the same, with a different approach.

With responsive design, you will access the same basic file through your browser engine independent of the device; however, CSS code controls the layout and makes it appear differently based on screen size. On the other hand, there is a script that checks for the screen size and then accesses the template designed for that device with adaptive design.

Why does it matter?

You may be wondering why all the fuss around a responsive website design. This may be even more compounded if you are new to digital marketing, blogging, or web development.

Reasons are varied, but there are two main ones. One, Google has made it mandatory to have a responsive web design before having published their website. Failure to comply, your site risks ranking poorest among over 100 million websites in your category. Secondly, and most important, is the need to tap into the extensive virtual market. Mobile web traffic has overtaken desktop and now makes up the majority of website traffic, accounting for more than 51%.

It, therefore, follows that if you have a majority of your online visitors use mobile phones, but you have structured your site to only serve desktop users, then you stand to lose a lot. Also, a majority of search engine visits is accessed through mobile phones. This shows why Google demands websites posted on its platform to be responsive for mobile devices.

Mobile search traffic

Mobile phone user-targeted advertising has steadily increased for a few years now and keep growing. If you stopped and paid more attention, you will realise that a mobile device offers more opportunities and platforms from which adverts can be sent. They provide unique traffic of users that is steady and reliable. From the latest mobile ad spending of $91.52 billion, we can conclude that indeed mobile is the next advertising frontier in digital marketing.

Whether you choose to advertise on social media – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. or use an organic approach like YouTube SEO, the vast majority of your traffic will come from mobile users.

Having invested heavily in ads because you bought the promise of an extensive market is not enough. All your investment may be blown in smoke if you are not keen o optimise your landing page to suit mobile phone users. The advantage of owning an easy to use and frictionless website, regardless of the platform one accesses it from, is the increased return to investment, ROI.

CMS sites; are they responsive?

The responsiveness of WordPress, just like other CMSs, depends on the theme and graphics used. Since the site is build using templates, if you used one of their own, you will have a responsive site. The nightmare comes about when you customise your preferred theme (not default). Since the template controls your WordPress design, layout, and content, it may or may not be responsive. However, you can determine its responsiveness on different devices before you publish it online. Alternatively, you can test using Google developer tools.

What a responsive website design is built on

What is the foundation of a responsive web design? What is it built on? Let’s find out;

Code language (CSS and HTML)

A developer can employ many languages to write the website code; however, the two main ones used are HTML and CSS. These are the oldest languages whose code is compatible with all kinds of system OS. In a responsive web design, the languages (HTML and CSS) control the content and layout of a page in any given web browser.

A responsive web design is all about using HTML and CSS coding to create a site that can fit any platform, browser, and screen.

HTML mainly controls the structure, elements, and content of a webpage. For instance, the following HTML code can be used to add an image to a website.

<img src="image.gif" alt="image" class"full-width-img">

Similarly, you can set a “class” or “id” that you can later target with CSS code. CSS is further used to edit the design and layout of the elements you include on a page with HTML. You can also control the design beyond just height, width, and colour. When CSS is used together with media queries, it makes a design responsive.

Media queries

A media query is a key part of CSS3 that enables a developer to present content to adapt to different factors such as screen size or resolution. It essentially works in a similar way to an “if clause” in some programming languages. This basically involves checking if a screen’s viewport is wide enough or too wide before executing the appropriate code.

@media screen and (min-width: 780px) {
full-width-img {
margin: auto;
width: 90%;
}

If the screen is at least 780 pixels wide, “full-width-IMG” class images will take up 90% of the screen and be automatically centred by equally wide margins.

Fluid Layouts

A fluid layout relies on dynamic values like a percentage of the viewport width. This is a runaway from a static value for every HTML element, like 600 pixels.

Responsive Website Design - Fluid Layout

This approach dynamically increases or decreases the different container element sizes based on the size of the screen.

Flexbox layout

The percentage-based layout adoption was due to its fluidity. However, according to many web designers and developers, it is not dynamic or flexible enough. Therefore, flexbox is a CSS module designed in its place as a more efficient tool that lays out multiple elements, even when the size of the contents inside the container is unknown.

A flex container expands items to fill available free space or shrinks them to prevent overflow. 

Flexbox layout is rather complicated, so if you want to use it in your design, you should consult CSS Tricks’ flexbox guide.

Responsive Website Design - Flexbox Layout

Responsive images

The mode of operation here follows what we have laid down in a fluid layout. Responsive images use the same concept as a fluid layout, where a dynamic unit is used to control the width or height. The sample CSS code below, as seen earlier, accomplishes this:

img {
width: 100%;
}

The percentage (%) unit estimates to a single percentage of the dimensions of the viewport and makes sure the image remains in proportion to the screen. The only challenge is that users will need to download the full-sized image, even on mobile.

To serve different versions scaled for different devices, you need to use the HTML srcset attribute in your img tags.

<img srcset="large-img.jpg 1024w,
middle-img.jpg 640w,
small-img.jpg 320w"
src="small.jpg"
/>

Speed

Your site’s user experience pegs on the loading speed, amongst other factors. Lagging sites have a higher percentage of 38% bounce rates. The difference is, when a page loads for less than 2 seconds, the average bounce rate is 9%.

This means that you should never sacrifice loading speed for responsiveness with the method you choose.

After site creation, here are some ways you can use to enhance website speeds:

  • Optimising your images
  • Implementing caching
  • Minification
  • Using a more efficient CSS layout
  • Avoiding render-blocking JS
  • And improving your critical rendering path 

Google AMP for mobile pages is also a sound option. However, some people have maintained reservations claiming that this tool led to a significant drop in their leads.

Responsive breakpoints

A breakpoint is the width of the screen where you use a media query to implement new CSS styles. To work with media queries, you need to decide on the “responsive breakpoints” or screen size breakpoints.

Common screen sizes

  • Mobile: 360 x 640
  • Mobile: 375 x 667
  • Mobile: 360 x 720
  • iPhone X: 375 x 812
  • Pixel 2: 411 x 731
  • Tablet: 768 x 1024
  • Laptop: 1366 x 768
  • High-res laptop or desktop: 1920 x 1080

If your design basis follows the mobile-first approach with a single column and smaller font sizes, you don’t need to include mobile breakpoints — unless you want to optimise the design for specific models.

Bootstrap responsive breakpoints

Bootstrap was one of the first responsive frameworks that helped to establish mobile-first design as an industry standard. Many developers still use it to date. They use media queries to target landscape phones (576px), tablets (768px), laptops (992px) and extra-large desktop screens (1200px).

How to make your website responsive

Step 1: Set your media query ranges (Responsive Breakpoints)

Set your media query ranges based on the unique needs of your design. For instance, if we wanted to follow the Bootstrap standards for our design, we would use the following media queries:

  • 576px for portrait phones
  • 768px for tablets
  • 992px for laptops
  • 1200px for large devices

Step 2: Size layout elements with percentages or create a CSS grid layout

Set up different sizes for different layout elements depending on the media query or screen breakpoint. The number of layout containers you have will depend on the design, but most websites focus on the elements listed below:

  • Wrapper or Container
  • Header
  • Content
  • Sidebar
  • Footer

Using a mobile-first approach, you can style the main layout elements like this (with no media query for the basic styles for mobile phones):

#wrapper {width:95%; margin: 0 auto; }
#header {width: 100%;  }
#content {width: 100%;  }
#sidebar {width: 100%;  }
#footer {width: 100%;  }
// Small devices (landscape phones, 576px and up)
@media (min-width: 576px) {
// Medium devices (tablets, 768px and up)
@media (min-width: 768px) {
#wrapper {width:90% margin: 0 auto; }
#content {width:70%; float: left; }
#sidebar {width: 30%; float: right; }
// Large devices (desktops, 992px and up)

In a percentage-based approach, the “float” attribute controls which side of the screen an element will appear on – left or right.

If you want to go beyond the basics and create a cutting-edge responsive design, you need to familiarise yourself with the CSS flexbox layout and its attributes like box-sizing and flex.

Test Responsiveness

First, you want to test whether your site is mobile-friendly with Google’s mobile-friendly test. Simply enter the URL of your website and click the “Test URL” button to get the result. If you want to test your site on multiple screen sizes, use Chrome developer tools.

Press CTRL + Shift + I on Windows computers or Command + Option + I on Macs to open the relevant device view. From here, you can select the mobile device or tablet of your choice to test the responsiveness of your design.

Here are some questions you might want to answer;

  • Does the layout adjust to the correct number of columns?
  • Does the content fit well inside the layout elements and containers on different screens?
  • Do the font sizes fit each screen?

Responsive web design examples

Here, I am going to highlight some of the best practices as witnessed on some specific brand websites t help illustrate how one needs to customise their site to be responsive.

The Telegraph

The Telegraph, as accessed on the desktop, boasts of the crowded visuals as you’d expect on the old newspaper. There are different columns, all filled with content. This is also synonymous with other newspapers and news vending websites such as the CNN, New York Times, The Metro, The Wall Street Journal, etc.

This format is slightly similar to that on tablets except for those with smaller screens, which take a comparatively near-look with the graphics on a mobile phone. Here, it conforms to the single-column standard and also adjusts the menu to be in the accordion format to be easier to use.

The Art of Non-Conformity

Let’s use Chris Guillebeau’s blog “The Art of Non-Conformity”, which has been with us for more than a decade. In so much as the design isn’t that cutting-edge, the design is highly responsive as it adapts the two-column sidebar and main content layout to a single-column design on mobile devices.

Amazon

You must have come across the Amazon. It is a global eCommerce leader and pacesetter with a foothold and influence in most facets of the economy. Among the many services Amazon offers are cloud and web hosting. This follows that they know all too well the importance of having a highly fluid UI across all the devices.

The difference is, the mobile design and that of the tablet make slight adjustments to enhance their responsiveness. The tablet layout removes some of the white space and adds a scrollable section of icons to fit more content.

Their mobile layout brings it into a single column, focusing on the essentials, like recent purchase history, instead of a common homepage.

YouTube

In video streaming, try finding a better responsive design than YouTube. On logging in, you get a variety of videos relevant to each individual. The design is flexible such that on the grid of a tablet, the number of columns in each row goes down to three. On mobile, it’s reduced to a single-column design.

Additionally, you will notice that the menu button on a mobile phone appears at the bottom of the screen. This improves navigation since the main menu is closer to the thumbs.

Wired

Wired is an online magazine. Its approach to responsive web design is focused on implementing a single-column layout on all smaller screens, starting with tablets. This basic web design layout makes it easier to draw user attention to top stories hence their CTA to subscribe.

Reasons why responsive web design is important

As we earlier highlighted, the population of people accessing the internet on a mobile phone has never been so high. Due to this predictable, steady increase, it is no longer tenable for brands to craft websites that do not target these substantial numbers. This is why developers have, for over the past decade, started designing websites that put in mind the traffic being created by mobile device users. This Shift to responsive web design is necessary to increase the website audience and, consequently, increase the conversions.

Here are some key points on the importance of responsive web design;

It is user-friendly and convenient – the ability of users to access the website on any device wherever they are is the most convenient and powerful feature in web design. The fact that you can access that particular website on mobile phones or tablets makes the whole process easy and hence user-friendly. For those in eCommerce, it is not even an option to either create a responsive site or not. It is important since it significantly increases conversions and total sales in the long run since users can purchase from any device, anywhere.

Easy and quick to update – with a responsive website design, it is incredibly easy to run software updates and make changes on the program, which takes effect on all screen sizes. This is unlike if you created different versions for different screen sizes. This then means that it is less costly to maintain and is time-saving.

Promotes link sharing by users – link sharing has never been so high. When a user shares a link to your website from a laptop to a user with a smartphone, it would be convenient if the link opens on the phone. Otherwise, if it cannot, then it becomes useless, and that is how you lose extra traffic and audience.

Good for optimisation (SEO) – Google web crawlers will likely catch you trying to cheat the system and have your site rank poorly on the engine results. Search engines use their crawlers to link your desktop and mobile devices websites. You are likely to rank better when the two are able to link. 

The mobile segment – this enables you to create a mobile segment from which you can view all the traffic generated by your website. Traffic statistics are essential in monitoring website performance and getting insights on strategies that maximise traffic.

Why should you switch to a responsive website design?

If you are running a business, the key objective is to realise returns at the end of a certain period based on your investments. Most of the people starting up websites are looking for better ways to increase their audience. Digital marketing is the perfect way to enhance your market share while at the same time going slow on your costs.

To succeed in this uncharted territory of online business, you need to have a website, strategy, and goal. According to Google, however, the most important aspect to look out for when creating a website is its responsiveness on different devices such as tablets, desktops, and mobile phones. Why is this so important? We have highlighted the reasons above nonetheless in summary. Here, I give you reasons why you should switch from an unresponsive site and design one that meets all necessary preclusions of a good website.

A Google Recommendation

To rank on Google, we have to follow its requirements. And offering the best users’ experience is a mandatory requirement of Google. I have mentioned earlier in this text that having your website rank well on search engines, you need to have a responsive website. To understand why it is important that you rank well on the search engine, study consumer behaviour. When searching for something online, users will most likely stop at the first page out of the billions of results and hundreds of pages displayed. In fact, some may change the keyword input if they don’t get what they were looking for on the first page. Bad rankings on Google translate to bad traffic, and hence poor returns on your investment.

Increase site traffic

All studies seem to coincide with the fact that most internet users access content online from mobile devices. Going by the trend as has been witnessed in the recent past, these figures seem to grow steadily with time. For this reason alone, you cannot afford to operate out of the loop.

For instance, those sites that operate eCommerce websites need to have responsive sites to attract more clients who are ready to order merchandise from mobile phones. Most people buy food, book flights, book hotels and holiday destinations and many more services through mobile phones. Without a responsive site, you don’t stand a chance in this competitive venture.

Offers improved user experience

Web developers know that user experience is key in web design. The user is the central feature in websites, and anything that is put or removed on these engines looks to improve user experience. Website responsiveness is one of these features.

Creating quality content and attractive graphics for your site is not feasible lest you have a responsive website that people can access using whichever device they have in possession.

To further improve user experience on your website, consider the following;

  • Site loading speed
  • Content
  • Graphics
  • Layout
  • User-friendly

Better SEO

We mentioned that Google web crawlers help to link your mobile site compatible URL and the desktop version. Having a common URL for both goes a long way in putting you in a better position of having a positive ranking on the search engine results window. Search Engine Optimisation, however, involves more than just site responsiveness.

Google considers more factors such as outbound and inbound links, metadata, content quality, etc. however, now that more than half of internet users access websites through mobile devices, the search engine had to shift to mobile-focused algorithms for indexing.  

It is easier to manage

Firstly, posting and publishing content on your site is heavily eased since you’ll only do it once, unlike if you had different versions. If you were running separate versions of software for desktop and mobile devices, you will need t post and publish content independently. However, with a responsive site, you only need to do it once, making the work easy and convenient.

Secondly, site maintenance is time-consuming. Say you have to manage an extra account for different devices; you will spend incredibly long on maintenance instead of content creation or research to improve your marketing strategies.

Third, if you don’t know how to read or insert code, then you will need to hire manpower to perform regular updates and maintenance. Paying for one is costly enough – Adding others doubles the costs.

It is beneficial competitively

With surging online market wars, you need an arsenal to help you defend yourself and defeat your attackers. A digital market is unlike others because your success is regulated by your host. Basically, if Google was to decide your site isn’t up to standard, you will not have the numbers you enjoyed. This means your competitor replaces you in your spot as you go further down.

To ensure that you stay afloat in the midst of the turbulent dynamics of the online market, ensure you; 

  • Have a responsive web design
  • Create quality and unique content
  • Develop a positive UX
  • Listen to your audience.

Reduced bounce rates

Bad user experience, which is caused by lagging loading speeds, unresponsiveness, poor quality content, etc., leads to increased bounce rates. To mitigate this, you need to optimise your site to agree with search engine provisions for an optimum website.

Consistent branding

You don’t want to have two URLs that lead to your brand’s websites which have different colours. A responsive website design allows you to create one site accessible from all devices. This means that your brand’s colours and themes will be consistent.

Increased traffic

The sole goal of websites is to aping into the online traffic and divert its flow towards your business. This dream is only real for those that better optimise their sites; the bottom positions of the search engine results are usually occupied by those of us whose sites are unresponsive or do not adhere to some of the principles of search engine optimisation.

What is the future of mobile website design responsiveness?

Technically, there are two methods one can create a responsive website:

  • Dynamic serving
  • Separate mobile site altogether

It really doesn’t matter with the method you use as long as your site is responsive across all devices. Google offers a mobile-friendly site test, which shows how easily users can visit your site from a mobile device.

To offer a seamless mobile-friendly experience to the users; 

  • Ensure there is a readable font size that allows users to read the content without pinching and zooming. 
  • Make the content easily fit on the screen without the need for horizontal scrolling.
  • Provide users with adequate space to click on links and buttons. 
  • Activate Fast Website loading time. 
  • Avoid using flash

The future of mobile responsiveness is clear, as stated by Google. It is now a requirement that for a better ranking, one must have a well-optimised website that is responsive across all devices.

Responsive web design best practices

We have extensively highlighted the benefits you stand to accrue when you design a responsive website. Essentially, this is one of the ways t optimise your website to stand a chance for better ranking and increased traffic. Here are some of the best practices in responsive website design: 

Fluid design

Design fluidity allows for a flexible screen fitting. It, therefore, enables upscaling and downscaling when changing screen sizes.

Reduce friction

Endeavour to create a frictionless web design to increase user navigation hence improving their UX.

To reduce site frictions and bounce rate;

  • Optimise the tap target. 
  • Focus on call to action. 
  • Add responsive images. 
  • Readable font size. 
  • Remove visual distractions and dark annoyances. 
  • Add filter and search features to the site.

The bottom line

A responsive website design is an approach taken at site development that aims at diversifying the user experience on different devices in a way that the website response is seamless regardless of the behaviour of the end-user.

A lot of different elements go into responsive web design. As we have seen above, without a basic understanding of HTML and CSS, it can be easy to make mistakes. Nonetheless, you have three options if you want to create a responsive web design.

One involves familiarising yourself with the different building blocks, analysing the examples with web developer tools, and testing as you use sample code. If self-training proves technical, you can always hire a web design agency or an able freelancer. The third option is to use CMS. Here, you can create a responsive site using WordPress or Wix.  

Here’s a summary of why web responsiveness is important;

  • Increase your brand visibility.
  • It helps you in achieving 100% of users’ satisfaction. 
  • Analysing, tracking, and reporting can be done in one place. 
  • Cost-effective and easy to manage. 
  • It’s a time to stay ahead of your competitors.