Ever wondered how large, content-filled websites could still be viewed on smaller devices such as smartphones or tablets?
In this article, we will be talking about Responsive Web Design. We will also touch on why you should use it, what pitfalls to be aware of, and more.
Responsive Web Design - What is it?
In easy-to-understand terms, Responsive Web Design is a site design method that allows websites to change their dimensions and shuffle elements so they can be viewed on any device.
What this means is, as a web designer, you can optimize your site so visitors can enjoy a better user experience whether they are on a laptop, tablet, or smartphone. And as a user, you won't have to scroll down too far or zoom in too much to enjoy what you are watching or reading.
The term was coined by Ethan Marcotte in 2010 when, in his article, he discussed the idea of a flexible web foundation that is responsive to a user.
Before the advent of responsive web design, people used a 'fluid' or 'liquid' method that allowed site content to fill up a screen easily no matter the web browser size. However, this was optimized mostly for various desktop screens and not handheld devices.
Thus Ethan, like others, believed fluid and liquid designs were not good enough.
Why Was Responsive Web Design Created?
Even before entering the first decade of the new millennium, there were already one billion people connected to the internet worldwide. And as technology advanced, the number of users only increased further.
By January 2021 the number jumped to more than 4.6 billion, which is more than half of the world's population, thanks in part to smartphones being able to access the internet.
Yet before the implementation of responsive web design, mobile internet users had to make manual adjustments when viewing non-mobile-friendly versions of a website. And they needed to keep doing it whenever they went to another page - that is, assuming the next page loaded fast enough.
At the time, very few were willing to make such an effort to surf the internet with their mobile devices.
How Can Responsive Web Design Help?
Responsive web design can help improve what is called the User Experience, one of the primary factors that affect how much traffic a website will see in a day.
That's because, whether a user knows it or not, they tend to take note of how fast a page loads, how it looks on their smartphones, and how much effort it may take to explore a website.
And while there are those who are patient enough to wait for more than five seconds or use an unwieldy interface, many aren't as forgiving.
There are other advantages to Responsive Web Design as well. To cite a few:
Improves SEO - Optimizing your website to improve a user's experience will also boost your search ranking greatly.
Easier to Maintain - You will no longer need to maintain multiple websites that can be viewed on different devices.
Effortless Monitoring - With one responsive website, you can monitor analytics effortlessly and without confusion.
Cost-Effective - Because of how easy it is to maintain, websites become cost-effective to manage in the long run.
Brand Adaptable - You can easily implement your branding and themes with responsive web design.
There are also some disadvantages to take note of as well.
Won't Work on Old Browsers - The results of a responsive web design may not be fully seen and appreciated on old devices with old browsers.
May Take Longer to Load - Unless fully optimized, users may experience longer loading times when trying to view a site built around responsive web design.
Can Take Longer to Develop - Building a content-filled website around responsive web design may take more time and energy than creating a standard website.
Brand Restrictions - Some companies are very specific with their branding, and a responsive web design can create problems when viewed on smaller devices.
Ultimately, you will have to decide whether a responsive web design is something you will need for your website. Despite the advantages, it isn’t really a one-size-fits-all solution, and so you may need to take a deeper dive into web design to find out more.
In fact, there is so much more to responsive web design than what is written here. And you can learn all of it when you decide on your favored method.