Most of us surf the internet on handheld devices. In fact, in early 2014 internet usage on mobile devices exceeded PC usage altogether! This has seen a huge change in the online business landscape, so you may be wondering, “Do I Need A Responsive Website?”
Traditional web design focused on creating websites that were compatible with desktop monitors, and these designs were not always optimised for web capable smart devices. If you imagine looking at a full sized webpage on a tiny little screen, you soon understand how impractical it is. Consequently, when users now visit a site on their phone or tablet, they may not be so satisfied with their online experience. Not having a mobile or tablet-friendly site can damage a brand’s reputation, not to mention all the sales you’re losing.
Consequently, it is now more important than ever that websites are “optimised” for mobile devices, known as Responsive Web Design. With the growth of small screen devices, responsive design is now more of a need than a trend. Every business with an online presence, will soon find it necessary to invest in Responsive Web Design.
What Is Responsive Design All About?
Responsive design is a web design technique that responds to the user’s behaviour and environment. The website adapts to the screen size, platform and orientation that the user is viewing it on – it’s all very clever. Whether your user visits your website on a small, medium or large screen, responsive design makes sure that the viewer will have an equally pleasant viewing experience in all cases – and most importantly, that they can use the website at all!
Let’s look at an example by visiting our Offset Warehouse website. Open the link and take a look at the site. Now, re-size your browser window. What do you see? The screen elements re-size themselves, so you can still access all the information. Next, try opening the same website on a mobile device, which has a different screen size. Notice how it is the same site that you see in this case too. So, we can safely conclude that we will see the same elements irrespective of the screen on which we view it. This is what responsive websites achieve.
Does Your Business Need It?
Why bother? That’s a good question. To answer it, let’s think about what happens if you stick to the traditional website model and have a website that is only meant for desktop or laptop users only. When your customer opens your website on their smart device, the webpage cannot be contained within a single screen. As a result, some elements of the page are out of view and the customer will have to scroll both horizontally and vertically to access all the information. Images and text will usually be far too small to see as well.
On the other hand, if your website uses responsive design, it will automatically resize and rejig all the elements to fit the available space. This means that the user can easily navigate by simply scrolling, and find the information on a tablet or smart phone, just as he would on a computer.
If you own a website, take a look at your traffic data. You will soon be surprised to realise just how many people access it using a mobile device. Work out the exact number of visitors this effects. Now, you tell me if you think it’s necessary to tailor your website to cater to them?
How Does It Work?
With hundreds of different screens available today, and more entering the market every day, it is impossible to target each device individually. Instead, you need a fluid design that will adapt to any layout. Website designers use three factors to do this: Fluid grids, Fluid images and Media queries.
Fluid grids are based on a maximum layout size and the concept is to divide a website into columns for ease of handling. With fluid grids, the page elements are sized using relative units like percentages, instead of fixed units like pixels. When the screen size changes, the elements assume proportional values based on what we have defined for them. Therefore, the website is replicated in any size. Similarly, our second factor, fluid images ensure that no image in the website is stretched or distorted, and confines them to the fluid grid by displaying them in relative units.
The third factor, media queries, determines whether the device requires a responsive rearrangement. It does this by detecting the screen width and adapting to it accordingly. For more technical details on these three factors and how to engage them appropriately, I suggest you read The 2014 Guide to Responsive Web Design on Treehouse blog.
Where To Start & How To Incorporate It Into Your Existing Website?
Although it may look complicated, responsive design is not difficult to understand and implement. Start small on a blog, by optimising for mobiles first. You can create your own fluid grids, but it is easier to work with an existing CSS Grid Framework as your base. Webflow and ThemeForest are site builders that allow you to do so, without having to write your own code. You will have to continuously optimise your design to ensure your users have the best browsing experience, but it isn’t difficult when you work with an existing CSS framework.
In the fashion and other design industries, creating a responsive website is a challenge we have to accept. Many customers use mobiles or tablets to shop quickly and easily, and so we must address this factor if we are to stay ahead of the competition. Fortunately there is plenty of information on this subject for you to explore and make an informed descision.