What is responsive design and why does it matter in 2022?
“Meet your customers where they are at.” You’ve absolutely heard this phrase, or something very similar, dozens of times in your career. And while it used to apply to advertising during the right TV shows or rush-hour radio programming, it has become even more critical advice in the digital age. Your current and prospective clients are online, and the places where they spend their time and get their information are exactly where you should place your business messaging. From your website design to your digital marketing efforts and everything in between, responsive design is one of the key approaches that every business needs to adopt—and right away.
What is Responsive Web Design?
You probably encounter responsive design every day, but like most web users you may take it for granted. When you visit a favorite brand’s desktop site, it looks different from the mobile site displayed on your tablet or mobile device. The reason? Responsive design.
Responsive design means that you are visiting the same site, but there are different website looks that accommodate different screen sizes and device sizes. Simply put, responsive web design is a modern approach to web design that creates websites and pages which adapt their display and layout by adapting automatically to the device they are being viewed on.
Through the use of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), HTML, fluid grids, front-end, and back-end frameworks, and other considerations, a site that is conceived and built “mobile-first” is one that can detect the device type and screen size or resolution, and then serve users a design and layout that works best for larger or smaller screens based on the device hardware. Thankfully, when you are considering your site design and development from a mobile-first standpoint, you no longer have to develop completely separate mobile sites or different mobile versions depending on current and legacy devices. That’s because the different devices are detected behind the scenes, and the responsive website is optimized for the viewer’s particular device specs.
So why is responsive design so important for businesses? Because, as we mentioned above, you want to reach your customer where they are. And nowadays, more than 57% of internet traffic is coming from mobile users (smartphones, specifically). For the last 5 years or so, 50% or more of all web traffic has been on mobile devices, in fact, with an additional percentage coming through tablets or different devices with small screens.
Key Benefits of Responsive Web Design
There are a whole host of benefits that come along with responsive web design, and they definitely make the upfront work well worth it. Just a few of the great benefits include:
SEO and site rankings
Google is still the biggest name in the search engine game, and in recent years they have begun to prioritize mobile-first designs. This makes sense since so many users are accessing the web from their mobile phones. Google’s algorithm is built to deliver content that is not only useful, but accessible, and responsive website design ensures that your site fits the bill.
Customers won’t return to a store where it’s hard to find what they are seeking. And the same is even more true online. Responsive design helps you deliver a site that is easy to navigate on any device, making it easier for users to use AND more likely that they will return.
Lower bounce rate and improved conversion rates
Following on that improved user experience, people are less likely to leave your site if they can view it easily and find what they are looking for. This helps with a lower bounce rate, and also helps your business improve conversions as well.
When people can view your website no matter when or where they happen to be accessing it, your audience is bound to grow. After all, everyone wants a quick and easy experience, whether they are searching for information or clicking through to your eCommerce site from an email.
Easier to maintain
Responsive design means that, while there are a number of different ways for your site to be displayed, you are still only building and maintaining one site instead of two (or three). Likewise, updates and design changes are easier as well.
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Tips to Make Your Site More Responsive
There are an endless number of considerations as you either build a new responsive site or adapt your existing business website to the responsive/mobile environment. However, here are a few great responsive design tips that can help you get started as you consider your project and develop a plan of action.
Tablets, mobile phones, and even some laptops are developed with touchscreens, and you don’t want to leave out any potential traffic to your website. So make sure this functionality is a big part of the design.
Use the fluid grid
Web development used to focus on a fixed-pixel display model, which would tell you (for example) how wide to make your header image. Fluid grid development has done away with these fixed and limiting pixel dimensions and instead scales your website elements to match the device, screen, and resolution.
Plan your pictures
Images are one of the top considerations when developing a responsive website. You’ll have to decide what stays and what goes based on resolution and viewability. You may have slightly different images for your mobile site, or you may develop logos and imagery that can be scaled without becoming unreadable.
Breakpoints and media queries
Speaking of images and displays, media queries allow your site to check the screen resolution and dimensions of the particular user’s device, then apply CSS rules based on what can and can’t (or shouldn’t) be displayed. Media queries may also be used to introduce breakpoints that further optimize the site for the mobile environment by making the content more easily digestible.
Must-Have Responsive Design Practices and Trends
As you consider your responsive design for 2022 and beyond, there are a few useful trends to keep in mind.
In an effort to simplify mobile websites, many developers are moving toward hiding the menu to reduce clutter and maintain a clean webpage. The menu icon is still available for users, so none of the functionality of the site is lost.
Loading times are a key consideration, and vector graphics help not only by loading more quickly; they are also scalable, making them an ideal choice for responsive sites.
Design element prioritization
As you move to smaller screen sizes, there are simply some elements that may not make the cut for a variety of reasons (animations, for example). Prioritizing based on screen size lets you keep things consistent.
Mobile-First Design Starts with a Plan
Hopefully, these tips and considerations give you a solid foundation to start from as you move toward a more responsive website design. While there can be much more to consider, you are already on your way to making a more effective and successful site that your customers love.