Responsive Web Design

by Elvis Tavasja on October 05, 2018

Most probably you have heard about Responsive Web Design, but have you ever asked yourself what is it exactly a Responsive Website?

Responsive Design is the technique which allows the website to adapt to the device of the user. The programmer can write the code once and publish it everywhere, meaning less work for him. The number of visitors that come to the website from a smartphone, tablet or iPods is increasing every minute. Statistically, in 2018 there are about 2.6 billion people in the world using the smartphone. Actually, the small businesses are increasing their presence in the mobile applications, using their websites, the social media, and other applications which promote their business. This means more and more websites are going to be Responsive.

Responsive Design Explained

A traditional website, when viewed in a desktop display, might contain one large column. The same website viewed on a smartphone does not display the whole information, and the user must scroll horizontally. But users don't like scrolling and zooming. Another problem with traditional websites is their loading time in the mobile devices. The large images on the website will slow it down.

By using Responsive Design, the tablet and the smartphone will adjust automatically the width of the website. The user reads the content of the page and navigates through the website without the need of scrolling. The large images will fit in, instead of distorting the layout.

Responsive Web Design Features

Some of the main benefits and features of a Responsive website are:

  • SEO prefers Responsive websites.

A website which is not Responsive might have a separate version for mobile devices. This means the double effort to create and maintain the links for both mobile and desktop sites. Having a Responsive Design means that optimization and maintenance are focused on one single URL, which gives consistency in URL structure on all devices. That will make the website more popular among the rest of the search results.

  • A responsive website means Easy in Maintenance.

Building a single site with Responsive Layout will reduce both the cost of the design and maintenance of the website. In long terms, it will minimize the effort of maintenance in a cost-effective manner.

  • Responsive Design will increase the sales of your online store.

If you own an online store, all mobile visitors are potential buyers, and you better not ignore them. If the users will like your website, they will stay longer and most probably will buy a product in your store. Also, the user-friendly behavior of your site will lead to higher conversation rates.

How does Responsive Web Design work?

Responsive Design consists of fluid grids, flexible images, and media queries.

  • Fluid Grids

The technique of fluid grids consists of specifying the elements by portion the size of the webpage, and not by pixels. The designer defines a maximum layout size and the grid is divided into a specific number of columns. In this way, the layout is maintained clean and easy to handle. Each element of the web page is set with proportional widths and heights instead of a fixed number of pixels. Whenever the device or screen size is changed, elements will adjust automatically their widths and heights, maintaining the specified proportions to its parent container.

For example, if the page has two columns, the width is not set in pixels, but in proportion to the maximum layout size. Column 1 might take up 60% of the page width and column 2 might take up 40%.

The advantage of the fluid grid is that the designer changes the maximum layout size and it will still work on larger screens due to the percentage based calculations.

  • Flexible images

A flexible image changes its dimensions depending on the size of the device the user is viewing the website. An option for the responsive image is that all devices will load the same images. Small icons and logos might not be too bad, but a problem compounds quickly as the images get larger.

In order to load faster the webpage, browsers preload all of its images, so they can identify them in the source code, before loading any CSS or JavaScript. This approach would actually penalize mobile visitors, by forcing them to download all the variants of an image!

A well-known solution to a good performance is using vector graphics, which are scalable, maintain their quality, and can fit the screen size of every device.

  • Media Queries

Responsive Design is implemented by using the Media Queries, which is a way to apply the CSS rules. Media Queries tells the browser to apply certain rules or to ignore them. It all depends on which kind of device is using the visitor.

Media Queries applies different CSS rules on the same HTML content. Instead of creating a version of the website for smartphones and a totally different version for desktop computers, the programmer uses the same HTML file for both of them. When the content editor adds a new article or edits something in the HTML file, the changes will be applied in both mobile and desktop layouts. In this way, the content and the presentation are in separated files. The developer implements different presentations for different main types of devices, and by using Media Query, different CSS rules are applied.

Mobile First

Following the pattern Mobile First, the Responsive Layout is built based on the smallest devices that the user might have, such as a smartphone or tablet. When the designer finishes the layout for the smallest device, he will add the layout for every screen size, in the same project.

There are two main advantages of the pattern Mobile First:

  • The designer makes a plan of what it is really necessary to put in the smaller screen, and later he will add the content for the wider screen.
    This helps a lot in the construction of the core of the website.
  • With Mobile First, the code will be simple and elegant. Smartphones have smaller processors, so the code should not be complex.
    Later on, extra styles can be added to customize the layout for the desktop screen.

Responsive Web Typography

Typography is the appearance of the text. The way it is designed is crucial to attract the visitor, to hold his attention and to encourage him to read more information on the website. Also, typography is important in highlighting or not any part of the text on the website. Practically, good typography is the one that improves the communication with the visitor. It is very important that the text on the website is easily readable. These properties of typography are the key factor in the design phase:

  • Font family
  • Font size
  • Text width
  • Line height

The Font Family parameter gives the emotional effect of reading the text. Usually, designers find the optimal Font Family based on the topic of the website. Three other parameters Font Size, Text Width, and Line Height determine if the text is easily readable or not.

In the Responsive Design, Typography should follow some rules also. The designer should increase the Font Size when switching to a wider screen version. This is because we tend to read from a distance when the device is bigger. Also, the designer should not change the proportions between the text and other elements of the website. The designer should pay attention to the highlights. By emphasizing a title it should also maintain the rest of the text in a relative size that attracts the visitor.

Less JavaScript is better...

JavaScript codes are not mandatory in a Responsive website. It is true that JavaScript makes the website nicer and user-friendly, but a fully Responsive Design can be created just with HTML and CSS. We suggest keeping the design project as easy as possible. This is a key factor for the whole performance of the website.

But after all, the mobile context is more than just the screen size...

The mobile devices are part of our lives, and we take them wherever we go. But we don’t have a strong internet connection in every moment. Also, we need the information as quickly as possible, as we often hurry up. Taking all these into consideration, building the mobile version of the website is not just adjusting the size, but also solving many problems of mobile development. The challenge is to load the content of the page as quickly as possible, with all its functionalities. This fast-loading design and build are mainly for the smartphones. Tablets and desktop versions do not need this immediate effect.

Hopefully, this article helped you in understanding the main goal of Responsive Design, but if you’re still feeling confused about it, don’t be afraid to leave a question or comment. If you’re already using responsive web design in your site or web application, share the link here so we can see!

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