What is responsive design
Responsive design (aka responsive web design) is a system of web and application design that adapts to the viewer’s device (e.g. desktop, tablet, and mobile screens of various sizes). This ensures that the design renders correctly for users no matter how they access it.
Benefits of responsive design
Improved user experience
Responsive design provides a better UX for those on mobile devices since all the elements are properly positioned and sized to use their screen space effectively. Websites with mobile-specific designs will also load faster than mobiles trying to load desktop designs which is incredibly important when you consider that most users will close a website down if it doesn’t load in the first few seconds. Improved experiences contribute to more website traffic and higher results.
Easier to manage
Having a mobile and desktop version of a website has been a popular solution since mobile web browsing came onto the scene. However, it can become difficult and time consuming to update 2 versions of a website if you add content frequently. Responsive design solves this problem since you only need one version of the website to serve all audiences and devices.
A common problem that many designers and developers have faced with the aforementioned two-website system is maintaining brand and design consistency as the website ages. When the desktop and mobile versions are treated separately, it often leads to small inconsistencies that can damage the user experience and brand representation. Using responsive design for your website ensures all elements of your design are consistent across viewing devices.
Developing one responsive website is significantly cheaper than developing two individual websites to serve different platforms. You will also likely save time (and therefore money) on updates and maintenance in the long run as there is only one website to be concerned about.
How to effectively utilise responsive design
Analyse audience device habits
Even with responsive design, it’s important to understand which devices need to be prioritised. Before you start work on your responsive design, audit and analyse your audience’s device usage and behaviours so you can understand which device they prefer and if there are any particular actions they take on certain devices over others.
Define the important actions
The next step is to identify what actions your audience will take when on your website to ensure that the design is built around them, rather than having these features added on as an afterthought. Actions like filtering articles, filling in contact forms, and completing basket checkouts are key examples of actions that need to be spot-on in your responsive design.
(Your previous audience analysis will help to inform which actions they regularly take.)
Make it fast
As we mentioned earlier, a benefit of responsive design is that it allows for faster mobile loading than a desktop version of a website. With this in mind, follow these tips from Google to ensure you get the best performance from your load speed and maximise the benefits of responsive design.
- Load priority content first and use “lazy loading” to load more content for users later on
- Use open web fonts rather than custom fonts
- Use server-side technology to deliver or render images for relevant devices
Remember the differences
Since you’re developing a design that works on both desktop and mobile devices, you need to take into account the differences each of these devices have. For example, users have a mouse when on a desktop device however on mobile they simply use their finger to scroll. This means that there is no way for them to hover over elements as they would on desktop – so it’s best to avoid animations and reveals that require a hover to maintain that all important consistency and usability across your design.
It’s not just about resizing
A common misconception about responsive design is that you simply have to resize the same content for different screens. While this can work in many instances, there may be occasions where images and other important elements need to be cropped or even completely changed on certain devices to have the best impact on the user. E.g. an image may need to be cropped on mobile so that the most important element can still be seen clearly on smaller screens.
Responsive design can help you achieve significant results with your website but it can be a complex approach to master. If you lack the skills and experience internally, consider outsourcing your website development to Digital Aptech.
At Digital Aptech, we scale development resources up or down as the needs of your business change to make outsourcing a reliable and sustainable way to grow your business. To find out more, get in touch with our team.