Responsive Web Design Ensures Your Site Looks Good On All Devices
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Boiled down to its simplest definition, mobile responsive web design ensures that your website adjusts how it displays to look as good as possible on a mobile device. The fact that you’re reading this article means you’re probably either already involved in a web design project now or you’re considering one in the near future – either way, you’re researching the process, which is a very good sign for your website’s future! If you are an up & coming web designer, what you’ll need to understand is that any web projects you design must be mobile responsive & you’re going to need a very strong understanding of CSS to work smarter, not harder. For the rest of you, your designer has most likely been talking about this “responsive web design” thing that seems really important. But, it’s not really making a lot of sense, probably because they’re using terms that only designers understand, so I’m going to try to put this in everyday terms.
The single biggest reason that every website owner should understand responsive web design is because the website owner is the only constant factor in the life of the website, in most cases. Designers may come and go. Web hosting companies may come and go. Services may change. But the site owner will be there the whole time, so it’s important to understand the basics.
So, what are responsive websites & why should a website owner care?
Put simply, responsive web design is making sure that a website’s display will adapt to the different screen sizes of the devices that it’s viewed on or sizes of the browser window. The desktop screen width is vastly different than the width of mobile phones – just hold your phone up to your computer and see the difference in screen sizes! This means that the viewport width, or browser width, of the different devices will have just as large of a difference.
Think of non-responsive design (called fixed layout web design) like viewing a painting hanging on a wall through a telescope you make with one of your hands, just like you did as a kid. When you’re further away, you can see a lot of the wall around the picture, but as you get closer you see less of the wall & more of the painting. Closer still & you only see a very small portion of the painting through the viewport of your hand-telescope because, obviously, the painting doesn’t resize itself to accommodate the smaller display. This is like using a smaller screen size, such as a mobile device, on a fixed layout website.
Fixed layout design acts the same & as display sizes become smaller, you may need to scroll left & right to see the entire content because the content doesn’t fit your screen width and there aren’t responsive images used so they’re too wide to see in their entirety or, worse still, the entire design shrinks to fit the screen & everything becomes illegible because the font size is tiny & image details are shrunken beyond recognition – honey, I shrunk the page!
You’ve seen websites that have columns on a desktop or laptop but they’re stacked on top of each other on a mobile phone or tablet. That’s probably the easiest example of responsive web design – just ensuring that everything is visible on the screen without scrolling left to right or pinch-zooming with columns or flexible grids that are responsive to the screen size. Since about 2015, Google has been penalizing non-responsive websites by ranking sites that are mobile-friendly higher in search results than they do sites that aren’t mobile-friendly. On average, it seems that about half of websites’ traffic nowadays come from mobile devices so it’s the smart thing to do anyway to have a responsive website design that adjusts for each different device width.
But All A Website Owner Wants Is Affordable Web Development
Remember the expression, “The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of a good price.” In web design, especially, we get what we pay for. In most cases, if a site owner wants their website to succeed in the long run, it really is imperative that they invest in it. Website owners find very quickly as they become more involved in their website’s operations that the really talented companies who understand all aspects of web design & development & can act as a one-stop shop cost a bit more but they provide far better continuity for the site owner.
Web design really is an art. It takes a trained eye, and some real technical know-how to get it just right.
The free/cheap platform has limitations that can’t be overcome without either picking a much more expensive plan or switching to something different altogether.
Savvy web designers know this, and will develop a process that allows them to build superior websites much more quickly than even the free DIY platforms. Since they intend to be in business for a long time, they need to focus on client happiness. It means that they will have a system in place to ensure that the overall web design for all of their clients will be responsive by default and utilize things such as CSS media queries for anything that is not responsive by default. This will ensure that the design integrity is intact on all devices, and they may even have it set up where it’s easier for the website owner to add to their website while preserving the responsive nature of the website intact.
Should You Consider SEO in Your Web Design?
Without question, 100%, every page, post, product, and category should begin with search engine optimization (SEO) in mind during your website’s life, from the very first construction throughout the life of the website. It used to be that your webmaster could just stuff keywords into your website’s meta description in order to rank your site incredibly easily for whatever word or phrase you wanted to rank it for. Search engines wised up to the fact that this led to a frustrating (and sometimes uncomfortable) experience for people searching for specific things & having largely irrelevant search results returned, so they started implementing smarter search algorithms to focus on more relevant search results. Currently, the focus is on more useful & locally relevant search results with the overall focus being that the search engines, primarily Google, want to return search results that are useful to people.
So what does all of that mean for SEO in web design these days?
It’s still true that content is king & if your content is useful to your audience it will start to rank higher as a result of other sites linking to it. If your content is useful, people will spend time on that particular page or post, rather than looking at it for a second, and then leaving. It means we all need to work at producing quality content, rather than a larger quantity of content.
What does content have to do with responsive web design?
If you’ve ever worked on a website, you’ll understand that the content placement can dramatically shift the layout of a web page & if the website is one that is intended to be something special, rather than simply a wall of text, a significant content change may completely change the layout & styling on a web page. Since responsive design adapts based on the designer’s intent, it makes complete sense to begin with optimized content & style around that, otherwise you’ll find yourself rebuilding the page when you realize you need to optimize that page.
Should You Hire Someone for a Custom Web Design Service or Custom Web Development?
It just depends. What are your goals & do you have the freedom to learn it all the first time on your own? If you’ve never made a website & the idea of mobile-responsive web design makes your eyes glaze over, you should probably find some help.
However, if you’re a fairly web-savvy individual with enough time on your hands to learn how to construct and manage an awesome website, then you could probably consider doing it yourself. If we look strictly at the versatility of the platform used, then self-hosted WordPress wins every time. With the open source nature of the platform and the global community surrounding WordPress, the things that you can do with your site are almost endless.
Want to start up an eCommerce site? You can have it up and running in a day or so. Want to have your orders printed automatically on a specific printer for fulfillment? You can do that, too. Want to create a membership auction site that has dynamically generated coupons for product listings from your collection of 1980’s scrunchies? No problem.
The best thing about doing all of this on a WordPress is that for the most part, any of the special functions that your site might need can usually be achieved with a one-time purchase instead of a monthly subscription, like you tend to find on Shopify.
You’re the expert on what you do, and you’re the idea person for what you’re hoping to achieve. Your web designer is the technical and design expert that you can use to ensure that your ideas are translated into industry-standard websites. As designers & developers, we know what works and we know what you should run away from, even though you might initially really like the idea of a website loaded with GIFs & a brand that uses Comic Sans.
So why did we get into all of that when this was about responsive design of web pages?
Because it’s all connected. It should all be considered and planned out when you’re putting together a website – we hope you’ve found this useful & please feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions! If you’ve got a great web designer, let them know you appreciate them, it really makes their day 🙂