What is responsive web design?
Responsive web design, RWD, is a method of design that ensures web pages render well on screens of various sizes. You’ve probably used your phone to look something up before and noticed that the webpage isn’t optimized for viewing on a small screen. Statistics estimate that around 50% of search engine queries are from mobile devices, with projections for that number to continue growing. Based on those estimates, designing your company’s website with mobile users in mind will increase the usability of your site for half of your web visitors. Sounds like an easy choice, right? But what does RWD really entail?
What are the core principles of responsive design?
RWD relies on numerous principles, but let’s focus on the big hitters: relative units, minimum and maximum values, and breakpoints.
Using relative units is all about breaking the sizing of page elements into relative units rather than static units. This concept is sometimes referred to as using fluid grids. Think about a computer screen and a smartphone screen. Neither have the same number of pixels, so how do you make sure your website displays correctly on both screens? An easy way to do this is to design in percentages rather than pixels. If you want a page element to take up half the length of a screen, design the element to take up 50% of the length rather than take up a certain amount of pixels. Then when the page is viewed on any type of device, the element in question will take up the same amount of space on the page relative to the size of the screen.
Here is where minimum and maximum values come into play. Pretend you have a banner that you want to take up the full width of the webpage. On a smartphone, a banner running the entire page width would look fine. But on a larger computer screen, a banner across the whole page may look too elongated. Using relative units to assign the banner 100% of the page width while also assigning a maximum pixel value would ensure the banner would take up 100% of the allotted space without exceeding a certain pixel count. Relative units work with minimum and maximum values to give you an extra layer of control.
No matter how expertly you use the former two principles, there will always be limitations to what certain screens can display at once. For example, a laptop will be able to display a page with multiple columns, but displaying the same information on a narrow phone screen isn’t going to be possible without major sacrifices to readability and appearance. This is one scenario where using breakpoints is essential. Breakpoints allow you to choose how much information is displayed per page and where those page breaks occur, depending on the size of the page in question.
How can responsive web design help my business?
Choosing to implement RWD ensures that your online content is easily accessible from any smart device. With roughly half of all search engine queries coming from mobile devices, it’s imperative that your website is designed to give every visitor the same user experience. That means no unnecessary scrolling, no content running off the page, no having to zoom to read text, no graphics that take up too much space, etc.
Ignoring the needs of mobile customers is only going to hurt your viewership and, ultimately, your business. Every second that someone visiting a website has to fight the design of it in order to find the information they’re looking for, the more likely they are to leave that site and look for the information elsewhere. The opposite is true also. Websites that are easy to navigate and view on multiple platforms keep viewers’ attention longer. The more time someone spends viewing your website, the more likely they are to buy your product or remember your business in the future.
More than that, Google tracks the amount of time people spend on your site and how quickly they leave, and then uses that information to assign your webpage value. The more value your page is assigned, the higher your site is ranked in search engine results. Websites with responsive design also perform faster because they can load on a variety of devices easily. Higher performance also increases the value Google assigns to your website, further increasing your search engine ranking and driving more viewers to your website. Simply put, RWD gives your users a reliable experience, keeps them browsing your content longer, and boosts your search engine optimization.
Why is using Carefully Crafted to make my website responsive the right choice?
Wherever you are in your journey to implement responsive design, Carefully Crafted is ready to jump on board. Maybe you want to bring us in at the beginning, or maybe you’ve already started the work to make your site responsive and realized mid-project that it would be better to call in reinforcements. Converting an existing website to responsive design is tricky and often times more work than starting from scratch, but circumstances and outside influences may limit whether or not that’s a viable plan. As with everything we do, we prioritize the right solutions for each business. You can trust us to take a look under the hood, assess all options, and advise you of the best path forward.
You can also rest assured that Carefully Crafted doesn’t sacrifice user experience in the name of responsive design. It’s easy to get tunnel vision and lose sight of how viewers will respond to changes in a website. Content prioritization and site navigation across multiple platforms can become a mess when shifting a website’s design, even if the website looks new and beautiful at first glance. If we were renovating a house, we wouldn’t slap on a fresh coat of paint and call it a day. We’d replace broken fixtures and install new upgrades throughout the house. We want your website to look and perform its best, even when your work with us has long passed.