What is Responsive Web Design?
Filed in Advice for Clients
If you’re a new business owner tackling the setup of your company website for the first time, you might have heard the term ‘responsive web design’ bandied around, but you’re not sure what it actually means.
To understand what a boon responsive web design can be to your new company site, we have to take a quick history lesson…
Many former owners of older mobile phones will remember how miserable it was trying to browse the internet on them pre-2007. If you managed to find a strong enough signal for the page to actually load, you’d still end up with a mangled Frankenstein monster of the site you wanted to visit.
Fortunately, smart phones came along and users could finally view websites in their original form – but the experience was still far from ideal.
Websites were designed for viewing on desktop monitors, so attempting to read a paragraph of text required you to zoom in, then drag the screen left and right like the carriage of a typewriter. It was cumbersome and you could easily lose your place on the page. The problem was partially mitigated when tablets came along, as the larger screen helped users see a little more of the site – but zooming and swiping was still a necessary evil.
These websites were also designed for navigating with a mouse, which allowed you to hold your cursor over categories to activate drop-down menus. On mobile, these drop down menus either refused to appear entirely, or would have to be activated with a light tap – press too hard and you’d end up being directed to the category page instead.
Slider bars also failed to function in most cases, since in normal circumstances you’d be clicking and holding the left mouse button to operate them.
And then there’s the appearance of these sites, with images and elements often overlapping other elements and links being pushed off the mobile screen.
At first these issues were seen as an acceptable trade-off of browsing the net on a fairly niche device – but in the past few years, website traffic from smartphones and tablets has sharply risen, particularly for e-commerce sites. If your site performs poorly on mobile, users will get frustrated and go and find a competitor that offers them the experience they expect.
Web developers attempted to solve this problem by automatically redirecting users to mobile versions of their sites, with the functionality of the site cut down to the bare essentials. Many of these infuriated users even more, as they found themselves unable to return to the fully-functional desktop version on their mobiles and had to stick with the fluffy version instead.
But in the last few years, a true solution has emerged to users. Enter the ‘responsive website’.
Responsive web design refers to a design philosophy that websites should provide a great experience on all internet devices, as well as the web development and graphic design techniques that they use to create such website experiences.
Instead of being assigned a size in pixels or other absolute measurements, the scale of each element on the page is dependent on the size of the device’s screen.
This means text will stay at comfortable reading size on all screens and images will never be too big to fit the screen dimensions. In addition, when the screen is small enough, navigation menus and lists will disappear behind convenient buttons which your users can open with a simple tap.
Responsive web design also favours clear buttons over fiddly text links, as well as beautiful images and graphics over reams & reams of text.
And it works the other way too – on larger devices, elements will grow to fit the screen, so your site will look great on laptops, desktops and even smart televisions.
All these features add up to make an attractive, easy-to-navigate site that your site’s visitors will love, no matter what they’re reading it on.
I am good at managing my schedule, so I can usually get projects booked in without much lead time. Let’s get our heads together and get your project done.