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Responsive Web Design

What is responsive web design?

Responsive design is a method of design that includes a user interface and layout that can adapt to different screen sizes, devices, platforms, and orientations. 

The various elements of a responsive website will render and perform differently depending on the device used to access it.

Responsive design allows a user to view or interact with the web page or web application easily, no matter what device they’re using to view the webpage.

A responsive website, when viewed from smaller devices such as smartphones, will tend to optimize its design for continuous scrolling and touchscreen features. 

Menu bars are typically collapsed into a hamburger button, and font sizes are often scaled up for better readability when viewed in smaller screens.

A non-responsive website, on the other hand, is a downsized desktop version of the website that is compressed to the smartphone screen. 

This can cause problems. Visitors may experience that they have to zoom in to properly read text. Sometimes, the elements of the page can become misplaced as well. 

Responsive design principles

The screen size is smaller on a mobile phone than on a desktop device, limiting the number of elements the visitor can comfortably view and access. So the most responsive websites will take the form of a single long scrolling page.

The first, most noticeable difference in responsive website design is scaling. Texts and buttons need to be scaled up and images scaled down. Use % instead of px when working with your website elements to make them scale automatically.

Horizontal menu bars should be collapsed into a hamburger menu which displays a vertical menu spread when accessed.

Compatibility is also important. Make sure to use web-fonts instead of system-fonts. Web fonts are supported by all browsers, while system fonts are limited to most desktop devices and only some smartphones. 

It’s also a good idea to use vector images instead of bitmap images, as vector images always maintain the same resolution even if they are scaled.

The transition from one section of the website to another must be smooth, both in terms of design and text content. A designer must take note of what kind of information to display and which to hide.

When making responsive website designs, be sure to test it with multiple devices and ensure that the elements are responsive with each of them. You can easily test various devices using Google Chrome’s DevTools.

If you are using HTML or CSS, making a website responsive can be done by using the media queries. With them, you can set the styles of elements according to the screen size.

What are the benefits of responsive web design? Why is it important?

Having a responsive website design will allow visitors to access your website easily, no matter what kind of device they use to do so.

Responsiveness will make the user experience better, increase the traffic from mobile and tablet devices, and help reduce your bounce rate.

Website responsiveness is also essential for SEO, as stated by Google themselves. When visiting Google Pagespeed insights, you’ll notice that responsiveness affects your website score. There’s even a separate score for mobile devices.

Other web design principles

As more varied desktop screen sizes became used by the public, the fluid layout was introduced. This is a type of layout that automatically resizes to fit the screen.

Some years later, with more people accessing websites from their phones, other design principles such as responsive and adaptive design became popular.

Differences between responsive design and fluid layout

A fluid layout maintains the same layout and positioning of a website’s elements, but it scales the elements based on the proportions of the visitor’s screen. 

This means that desktop users and mobile users view more or less the same website layout, it’s just scaled-down on the mobile version.

However, this can lead to website elements being displayed in very narrow horizontal columns due to the aspect ratio of mobile screens. 

Responsive design allows elements to be scaled or repositioned accordingly. You can have one stacked column instead of multiple narrow columns.

Differences between responsive and adaptive web design

Adaptive web design relies on creating a custom layout specifically for each device.

This allows for good user experience but ends up being time-consuming. Also if there’s a newly released device, the adaptive web design will require an immediate update.

Responsive design combines both adaptive design and fluid layout. The elements scale in proportion to the layout, and when it reaches a particular screen size, the layout changes to the mode designed for that particular screen size.

How to design responsive web pages

The first thing to take into account when making a responsive design is the viewports. In short, this refers to the screen sizes of various devices. 

The most common viewports are mobile, tablet, desktop, and anything larger than a desktop (i.e. TVs, ultrawide or dual monitors).

The next step would be to make a base website design for one of the viewports. Usually, the base design is made for desktops. 

Making a website based on phone screens first is called a mobile-first approach. Decide which elements to scale, hide, or reposition in different viewports.

A simple method would be to use the media queries in CSS. This allows you to set breakpoints, or in other words the range of screen widths that belong to a viewport. 

For example, anything less wide than 576px falls into the mobile viewport and anything above it falls into the next – tablets. 576px is the default breakpoint between mobile phones and tablets.

One last thing to consider is the scaling of texts and images. Make sure the font size is readable on a mobile screen and images can be displayed fully.

How to make an existing website responsive

Making an existing website responsive is not that different to designing one from scratch. The first step would be to change all fixed sizes to scalable sizes, by using % instead of px as measurements for images.

Next, configure the layout for various device breakpoints. Make sure everything is well-proportioned and readable. Finally show, hide, and reposition elements according to the viewport.

Written by

Author avatar

Olivia

Olivia is a writer for Zyro and an eCommerce know-it-all. Having spent many years as a retail buyer, she loves writing about trend forecasting, brand building, and teaching others how to optimize online stores for success. She lives in London and spends a lot of time exploring the city’s parks with her whippet.

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