The Advantages of Responsive Web Design
Responsive design means the website design adapts the content (text, images, videos), UI elements (buttons, menu, etc.), and its dimensions to respond to the size of the devices (desktop, tablet, smartphone, etc.) from which a website is viewed.
Now responsive design is must-have practice because people use devices of different sizes to access the Internet and view sites. But surprisingly, many web designers and website owners do not pay enough attention to this practice.
Let’s consider the advantages of responsive web design to highlight its importance for website owners.
The origin of responsive design
Mobile devices did not exist twenty years ago, and web pages were designed with fixed screen sizes.
Web designers designed for desktop screens and constantly updated websites to new screen sizes, increasingly larger. The first big site that adapted to browser viewport width was Audi.com. The site was created by a team at Razorfish and launched in late 2001. But this approach had limited browser capabilities. The layout could adapt dynamically for Internet Explorer, but Netscape users had to reload the page from the server when resized it.
Now it seems ridiculous, but twenty years ago, web designers could create responsive designs using percentages in style sheets (CSS) to adapt to devices. Why didn’t they use that?
The problem was mental. Web designers wanted to spend their time on something other than responsive design.
However, the advent of smartphones with Multi-Touch screens changed the Internet in 2007. Responsive design has become a key factor for the website user experience and businesses.
In May 2010, Ethan Marcotte invented the term responsive web design, defining it as fluid grid/flexible images/media queries. In 2011 he wrote the book Responsive Web Design, which described the theory and practice of responsive web design in detail.
The logic of responsive web design is the flexibility of content within blocks, depending on the device and the type of content.
In 2015 Google announced a big search core update that SEOs called Mobilegeddon. This update boosts the page ranking of mobile-friendly sites for mobile devices.
Now responsive web design is a ‘must-have’ for any website.
Importance of responsive design
Now people use desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones with different screen resolutions. Look at this snapshot from F5 Studio’s site Google Analytics.
F5 Studio’s site visitors used 88 display resolutions. There are statistics for seven days.
F5 Studio’s site would lose many visitors if we didn’t use a responsive design.
How many visitors do websites without proper responsive design lose?
The principles of responsive design
Now let’s consider the core fundamentals of responsive design that Ethan Marcotte laid.
A fluid grid is a visual way to create different layouts that adapt to the devices on which the website is displayed.
Compared with the fixed grid layout, a fluid grid layout can adapt to different screen sizes. It is one of the most critical parts of website design if you need to create fully responsive projects.
Regarding website design, a grid is a set of horizontal and vertical lines that divide a website page into countless columns and rows.
This helps a web designer precisely arrange content on a page and adapt it to different devices.
Media query is a CSS technique introduced in CSS3 in 2012.
Media queries allow a website to determine the screen size (via screen resolution or browser viewport width) and apply CSS styles appropriate for that particular screen size a visitor uses to access.
Responsive images and media
Using many images and videos on a website complicates the development of a website with a responsive design.
A typical web page, like this blog article, may contain a header image and some content images below the header. The header image usually spans the whole width of the header. The content image will fit somewhere inside the content column.
That is why a web designer should use responsive images and media. It means using an approach that allows media files to work well on devices with widely differing screen sizes and resolutions.
The proper way to handle images and other media files is to use the max-width property. For example:
In complex cases, web developers use other approaches to styling media files that allow them to adapt to any browser and screen size.
The main advantages of using the responsive web design
Which advantages does the responsive web design provide to the website owner?
Improve website usability
Website usability is a term that describes how to easy to use a website. If a website design is adapted to the screen size, it may dramatically improve user engagement and conversions or improves sales in the e-commerce case. Because a user can read text, watch videos, and interact with UI elements.
Responsive design directly affects the SEO of a website because it improves User Experience factors such as Largest Contentful Paint (LCP, loading performance), First Input Delay (FID, interactivity), and Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS, visual stability). It is critical for users who visit a website from mobile devices and use a mobile Internet connection. That is why Google awards websites that have good Core Web Vitals.
As soon as responsive design became a ‘must-have’ practice, web designers thought about how to create web designs in this way.
Some web designers still use the ‘Graceful Degradation’ approach. It means starting the website design from a desktop version. Usually, they create an advanced design with many visual effects and features, and then designers cut some features to make the website compatible with mobile.
As you may already guess, this approach does not work well in many cases because web designers find it hard to simplify an advanced design to the mobile end. In this case, a web designer should eliminate many beautiful solutions, and the mobile version looks like an incomplete website.
Many web designers started using the ‘Progressive Advancement’ that turned into the ‘Mobile-First design’ approach. It means a web designer creates a mobile version first. Typically a mobile version includes the most basic website features. After that, a web designer creates the more advanced versions for a tablet and desktop with complicated visual effects and features.
Mobile-first design allows a web designer to focus on the critical points of a website and head for a lean and clean design with prioritized features. The restrictions of mobile versions, such as bandwidth, screen size, and low Internet connection, make web designers look for more creative ideas.
In short words, the responsive design improves website usability, user experience, and SEO. These solid advantages allow website owners to attract more visitors, improve engagement, and increase conversions.
Although responsive web design has been used for over eight years, the quality of website design depends on the web design team’s experience and skills. That is why a website owner should review the web design team’s portfolio to ensure that the team uses fluid grids, media queries, and responsive media in its works and follow the best modern practices.
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