Responsive Design: It's More Than Just Design

Google representatives say, "Responsive design is Google's recommended design pattern". When Google favors something, everyone in the digital sphere takes notice, and many of us are quick to adhere. Responsive web design enables a website's layout to change based on the screen size/resolution of the device it is displayed on. A website should respond to screens of all types and sizes, including mobile phones, tablets, laptops, desktops, and televisions. Many laptops will range between 12-inch screens and 17-inch screens, but desktops can have as large as 40-inch screens with mobile phones being exponentially smaller. And to make things even more challenging, screens all have different resolutions. For this reason, responsive design is no longer a matter of debate anymore — it is a requirement.

There are other reasons, beside Google's favoritism, to build websites using responsive design. Perhaps the most obvious reason to use responsive design is visual appeal. According to Sitepoint data, in November 2016, mobile web browsing accounted for nearly 51 percent of all web browsing. This is the first time mobile has surpassed desktop as the lead device for web browsing. Have you ever visited a website on a mobile browser and immediately left the site because the aesthetics were atrocious? A bad mobile experience is one of the top reasons people leave a website without engaging. A website which is not designed for mobile works like repellent.

Save Time & Money

Responsive web design also saves time and money. Rather than writing separate lines of HTML and CSS for each device displaying a particular website, responsive design requires the maintenance of a single set of code. This single set of code then will have parameters to move, expand, contract, show, and hide the different elements of the site, depending on the page. For instance, a menu bar may appear along the header of a website when it appears on a laptop, but the mobile version of that website may use a hamburger-style menu which drops down to show the menu options when clicked.

Responsive Design Helps Improve SEO

SEO also favors responsive design, so optimization has become a lot more than keywords and phrases. If Google decides a website looks just as immaculate on a phone or tablet as it does on a 24-inch desktop screen, this will factor into achieving higher search engine rank for the website. Consider this logic — a readable website, easily navigable, and suited for all devices can achieve a higher SEO than competing sites with potentially better keyword phrases. A site with a higher SEO may appear on the first page of a Google search, and a site which appears on the first page of a Google search is likely to get more clicks and conversions than a site appearing on the second or third page. In the end, it actually could pay to be responsive.

Guidelines

In web design, everything is about user experience, and responsive design puts the user first. In order to reap the benefits listed above, here are some guidelines to keep in mind when creating or updating a responsive site:

  1. Keep the content and layout as simple as possible. Technology prioritizes mobile first now. This does not mean mobile is most important, it just means mobile is equally as important and should not be left as a last minute thought.
  2. Following the rule of mobile-first design, remove non-essential aspects from mobile websites. Mobile has the least amount of space to work with, so it is best to research and include only website actions essential to mobile users. A website for a restaurant may include a vibrant image on the mobile landing page, along with a call-to-action to make reservations, a phone number, and a drop-down menu featuring the different dining options offered.
  3. Prioritize content based on where it will appear. Content should be presented optimally for the device it appears on. Even though the restaurant's website fulfills the needs of many people who would search for it on their phone to contact the restaurant, browse their selection of food, and make a reservation, other features like special events the restaurant hosts, still need to be included on all devices for this website. For smaller screens, such as mobile screens, make sure the content flows naturally for the viewer and is easily accessed by simple navigation.
  4. Consider typography in responsive design. A typeface and font size which is easily readable on mobile may be too small for a desktop screen, and a seemingly perfect font size on desktop may be too large on mobile. Responsive design and the highly anticipated release of variable fonts, which is a collection of responsive typography designed by Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Adobe, are nearly able to guarantee type will appear as it should across all devices.