What is Responsive Web Design?

Have you ever not been able to put your content on different kinds of screens? With responsive web design, you can make sure that your website looks its very best on cell phones, tablets, laptops, and desktop screens. When your website works on a variety of screens, you improve user experience which means higher conversions and business growth. This guide will take you through what responsive web design is, examples, and how to implement it into your website. 

What Exactly is Responsive Web Design? 

Responsive design is an approach to web design that makes your web content adapt to different screen and window sizes of a variety of devices. Your content may be separated into different columns on desktop screens because they are wide enough to accommodate that design. If you separate your content into multiple columns on a mobile device, it will be hard for users to read and interact with. Keeping visitors on your website for longer is a great perk of responsive web design.

responsive design

How Does Responsive Web Design Work?

Responsive web design works through Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), which uses various settings to serve various different style properties, depending on the screen size, orientation, resolution, color, and characteristics of the device. Responsive website design examples usually have three defining features: media queries, fluid grids, and flexible visuals. 

A media query is something that allows developers to use condition checks to alter web designs based on the properties of the user’s device. This is superior to simply defining breakpoints in HTML/CSS, as it is a more tailored experience for the user. 

You can create fluid grids through CSS. When this happens, the columns automatically rearrange themselves to fit the size of the screen or browser window, no matter the size of the device. Fluid layout helps designers maintain a consistent look and feel across multiple devices. Plus, it saves everyone time and money by allowing designers to update one version of the website versus more than one. 

Given that there are over 8.48 billion unique devices in the world today, flexible visuals help to create timeless designs capable of adapting to any kind of device, regardless of its size or shape. Together, these three types of functionality allow designers to craft responsive websites. 

Why Does Responsive Design Matter? 

If you’re new to web design, development, or blogging, you might be wondering why responsive design matters in the first place. It is no longer enough to design your website to work for computers alone. Mobile web traffic has overtaken desktop and now makes up the majority of website traffic, accounting for more than 51%. When over half of your potential visitors are using a mobile device to browse the internet, you can’t just serve them a page designed for desktop. 

How Can I Check if My Website is Responsive?

You can check if your website is responsive right in your web browser. Here is how: 

  • Open Google Chrome 
  • Go to your website 
  • Click Ctrl + Shift + I to open Chrome DevTools
  • Click Ctrl + Shift + M to toggle the device toolbar 
  • View your page from the perspective of a mobile phone, tablet, or desktop 

There is also a free tool you can use, such as Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test, to see if pages on your website are mobile-friendly. 

responsive web design

Basics of Responsive Web Design

1 – Know the Difference Between Responsive and Adaptive Design 

Responsive design is straightforward. With responsive design, your content will ebb and flow. Because it is fluid, it means that users can access your online world and enjoy as much of it on their handheld device as they would on a big monitor. For this to be true, responsive design requires a very good understanding of the website and a deep understanding of the needs and wants of the end users.

While responsive design relies on changing the design pattern to fit the real estate available to it, adaptive design has multiple fixed layout sizes. When the site detects the available space, it selects the layout most appropriate for the screen. So when you open a browser on a desktop, the site chooses the best layout for that desktop screen, resizing the browser has no impact on the design. 

2 – Aim for the Flow 

Every HTML document, which websites are built on, is made up of natural flows. As screen real estate starts to get smaller, your content starts to take up more vertical space. In HTML, the content is the king. All block elements are fluid. They will naturally adapt their layout to accommodate their inner content.

3 – Master Relative Units 

We now have the opportunity to use relative units of measurement. All of these measurements are relative to browser size or other elements on the page. A relative unit gets sizing from something else. In this specification, the relative length units are defined as em, ex, ch, and rem. These are font-relative lengths. The specification also defines a % value, which is always relative to another value. Using relative values means that things can scale up and down according to some other value. 

responsive website design example

4 – Breakpoints 

Breakpoints are pre-defined areas of measurements that allow you to rearrange your element dependent on the size of the browser. You can add breakpoints where certain parts of the design will behave differently on each side of the breakpoint. Use a media query to add a breakpoint at 768px.

5 – Max and Min Values 

Sometimes it makes sense for your content to stretch and other times, it doesn’t make sense. You have to set a max-width to make sure your content never goes past a certain point. The min-width property is the minimum width of the screen while the max-width is the maximum width of the screen. These are important to note when creating a query. 

6 – Nested Objects 

Nested objects are when you take related elements and insert them inside a containing element. Now you can control the containing element instead of constantly trying to control each individual element.

7 – Mobile or Desktop First?

Do you start designing your website for mobile or desktop first? It is an ongoing debate and completely your choice, but usually, people do mobile-first. 

website design

8 – Web Fonts vs System Fonts 

Decide which kind of font you want on your website. With a system font, you can simply download the font file and install it on your computer. On the other hand, you don’t use web fonts in your computer’s software applications. Web fonts are what instruct your site to render text in a particular font (and sometimes style, such as bold or italic).

Great Responsive Website Design Examples

1 – Online Newspaper: The New York Times 

On desktop, the New York Times layout looks like a traditional newspaper, crowded with visuals and different rows and columns of content. There seems to be a separate column or row for every category of news. On mobile, it conforms to the single-column standard and also adjusts the menu to be in the accordion format to be easier to use. 

2 – Blog: The Art of Non-Conformity 

The blog “The Art of Non-Conformity” by Chris Guillebeau has a responsive and adaptable website. The design on the website adapts the two-column sidebar and main content layout to a single-column design on mobile devices. 

3 – E-Commerce: Amazon 

Amazon has a consistent user interface that is fluid across all devices. Their tablet layout removes some of the white space and adds a scrollable section of icons to fit more content into a smaller package. Their mobile layout brings it into a single column, focusing on the essentials, like recent purchase history, rather than the different section link icons from their homepage. 

what is responsive web design

4 – Video Site: YouTube 

Youtube’s homepage design is flexible and relevant to each user. On tablets, the number of columns in each row goes down to three. On mobile, it is reduced to a single-column design. 

The mobile version also moves the main menu to the bottom of the screen, closer to the thumbs of the smartphone users. This simple move improves user navigation.

5 – Online Magazine: Wired 

Wired Magazine implements a single-column layout on all smaller screens, starting with their tablets. It is a basic layout but it makes it easier to draw user attention to top stories and their call to action to subscribe. 

We hope that you got more information on how to use responsive web design as well as some important tips and responsive website design examples to keep in mind. If you have any questions regarding website design, reach out to the experts of SEO Design Chicago today for more help!

FAQs: 

  • What are Cascading Style Sheets (CSS)? 
  • How can I check if my website is responsive? 
  • What are breakpoints and why are they important?
  • Should I start mobile or desktop work first? 
  • What are common themes in responsive website design examples? 

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