Responsive Web Design: What Is It and Why Should You Care?

Responsive Web Design: What Is It and Why Should You Care?

Whether you’re updating your current website or considering building a brand new one, you will be hit with the topic of Responsive Web Design (RWD). With the increased use of smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices, more people are using their smaller screen devices to view your web pages. The user experience should always be kept in mind so implementing RWD is important in website development or redevelopment. The purpose of RWD is to allow you to have one site that has the flexibility to function when viewed on all devices, regardless of their screen size.

Websites Before Responsive Web Design

Before RWD, the transition from a website on a computer to a mobile device was not optimal. A traditional “fixed” website on a desktop computer may have three columns of information. However, this layout on a smaller device might force you to scroll horizontally which is inconvenient and not displayed properly. Also, there’s a good chance some elements of your website might be distorted or even hidden from view completely. Another challenging aspect is that hand-held devices usually have the option of being viewed in portrait or landscape mode. A poor user experience can also occur if images are too large to load on smartphones or would “break” the layout.

What is Responsive Web Design?

The use of Responsive Design technology has improved the user experience.  When RWD is implemented, your website automatically adjusts to the device the viewer is using. A tablet version of your website may display just two columns making content readable and easy to navigate. The same material might appear as a single column on a smartphone screen, perhaps stacked vertically.  Alternatively, the user might have the ability to swipe over to view other columns. When it comes to viewing images on a site implementing RWD, they will automatically resize instead of distorting the layout or getting cut off.

How Does Responsive Web Design Work?

Responsive sites use fluid grids. This allows all page elements to be sized by proportion, rather than pixels. So if you have three columns, you wouldn’t say exactly how wide each should be, but rather how wide they should be in relation to the other columns. For example, you could set Column 1 to take up half the page, column 2 to take up 20%, and column 3 to take up 30%.

This also applies to media, such as images and infographics, which can also resize relatively. That way an image can stay within its column or relative design element, regardless of the device or orientation of viewing.

Other Factors to Consider

Mouse vs. touch:
Designing for mobile devices also brings up the issue of mouse versus touch. On desktop computers, the user normally uses a mouse to navigate and select items. On a smartphone or tablet however, the user mostly uses fingers when touching the screen. A Web Designer must take into account that what may seem easy to select with a mouse, may be hard to select with a finger on a tiny screen.

Graphics and download speed:
Users have come to expect websites to load quickly. Therefore, download speed and graphics are big considerations when developing your website. On mobile devices, it may be wise to display fewer graphics than the desktop version so that a site doesn’t take too long to load on a smartphone.  

Apps and “mobile versions”:
Responsive Web Design accommodates all users of various devices that visit your site. In the past, you might have thought about creating an app for your website–one that accommodated iOS or Android users. However, there are so many different devices and operating systems, it’s getting harder to create apps. Designing your website using RWD is the most desirable option for the user experience.

Why Even Small Businesses Need to Switch to Responsive Web Design

A recent report by Pew Research Center shows that in 2018, 77% of Americans now own smartphones. That is a large group of the population who are carrying the internet around in their pockets, purses, backpacks and hands. People are searching for information while they’re “on the go”. Businesses that have websites that are difficult to view on all platforms will lose customers.

To make it easy for customers to view your website, be sure you’re taking advantage of the benefits Responsive Web Design has to offer. At NCN Technology, we always keep this at the forefront of our Web design process and we are happy to assist you with your website if you feel it is needing improvements.

Call us today for a free consultation at 703-757-2209, or email us at consulting@ncntechnology.com.

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