Responsive Website Design
Mobile sites allow your customers – and potential customers – to access your website in a quick, compact format for reference on the go. While certainly advantageous for obvious reasons, there are limits to what mobile sites can offer you and your visitors.
Responsive sites, on the other hand, are as limitless as your website. Thanks to their scalability, they offer up a great-looking interface that shrinks and grows along with the size of the screen displaying it, without the need to create a separate set of codes from whole cloth.
Why Go Responsive
Responsive sites may appear flashy and expensive, but they actually save you valuable cha-ching in the long term. They automatically respond and resize (hence the moniker “responsive site”) to the size and shape of various screens on various devices, so your developers and designers don’t need to bother with creating separate desktop and mobile versions of your site. Everything fits into one convenient, snug digital package.
Despite their apparent complexity, the concepts behind responsive sites are actually simple enough. Although frameworks, such as Bootstrap, Skeleton and Foundation are not essential, they are highly recommended when ensuring your site remains the same across platforms, but adjusts itself accordingly based on media queries. These frameworks determine how the site behaves and shapes itself to the displaying device and allow for different dimensions based on the screen’s height and width.
How Queries Work
Codes embedded in the website’s CSS indicate what sort of screen is loading your data. These relay information such as general devices (mobile, desktop, tablet) and orientation (landscape, portrait). Stylesheets can be external or inline, depending on your developer’s preference and/or your site’s needs.
Regardless of which route you ultimately decide to take with your coding, your device picks up the relevant code and displays accordingly. Your end user doesn’t have to fumble to load a mobile version – everything comes through crisp and clear, no matter what.
Despite the fluidity and ease-of-use behind responsive sites, your designers, content team and developers still need to coordinate and prioritize information and elements. They must understand how everything expands and contracts along with the displaying device. Because the more detailed pages appropriate for desktop viewing won’t necessarily translate too aesthetically to mobile and tablet versions, you’ll need graceful degradation and progressive enhancement to scale everything accordingly.
The smallest variant, usually a mobile display, should only load the minimum amount of content needed to get the point across without clogging up the user’s screen. You can add more and more fluff valuable details as they graduate in size to tablet, and from tablet to desktop. Start by having them work with a 480 pixel minimum and gradually moving up. This prevents common scaling mistakes, like side navigation bars obscuring main content text.
In addition to being the more resourceful option, responsive sites also tend to provide a more positive user experience. A separate mobile site only functions on mobile devices – try opening one on your desktop and noting how sparse or cluttered everything appears. Responsive sites are, on the whole, democratic and accessible. Their fluidity and flexibility help you reach out to a much wider audience.
If more people can view your site on more devices, that means more business. So it isn’t just the user who claims a satisfying experience here.