To sum up, responsive design teams build a single site that works on a wide variety of devices, but they have to take into account content, design, and performance on each one to guarantee usability.
Defining Responsive Design
Using the screen size and orientation of the device being used to view the website, responsive web design (RWD) dynamically adjusts the look of the website to provide an optimal viewing experience. One solution to the challenge of designing for the wide variety of consumer devices, from mobile phones to desktop monitors, is responsive web design (RWD).
With RWD, a site’s layout changes depending on a user’s device, with one design used above a certain breakpoint and a another design used below it. The width of the browser is typically used to determine the breakpoints.
All devices receive the same HTML file, with style changes made via cascading style sheets (CSS). A single codebase can accommodate users with varying-sized viewports, negating the need to develop specialized sites for wide-screen displays, desktops, laptops, tablets, and phones of all shapes and sizes.
Responsive layouts rearrange content depending on the size of the browser window. One design that uses three columns on a desktop may reorganize into two columns on a tablet and one column on a smartphone. Grids based on proportions are used in responsive design to reorganize information and media.
Responsive design emerged as a means to ensure that all users had access to the same information regardless of the device they were using, but it also allows for the concealment of certain elements on smaller screens, such as background images (like the one used by Transport for London in the previous example), secondary content, and supplemental navigation. Knowing your audience well can help you make educated decisions about what to hide or how to modify the design for various devices.
Potential benefits of RWD include reduced need for designing unique sites for various devices. Having a single codebase instead of constructing multiple sites at once can reduce development time and make ongoing maintenance more manageable. In addition, RWD is “future-proof” since it can accommodate additional breakpoints when they become necessary in the future. The code is adaptable, meaning it can work with a screen size of 5 inches or 15 inches if either happens to become popular. With RWD, you’re not limited to designing for a specific screen size or type of device.
Because responsive design necessitates that elements resize and rearrange themselves, it is typically simpler to execute on a content-focused rather than a functionality-focused site. It can be challenging to break down complex data or interactions into discrete modules that can be freely moved across a website without compromising readability or usability.
Creating Usable Experiences
Since responsive design is predicated on rearranging components, strong collaboration between design and development is required to guarantee usability across devices. Designing for responsive devices typically requires creative problem solving, as designers must figure out how to rearrange content from wider to narrower or wider to longer layouts. Although making sure everything fits on a page is important, it is not sufficient. In addition to being able to adapt to different screen sizes and resolutions, a responsive design must also be easy to use on all devices.
The user’s interaction with the site can change dramatically from one page view to the next if items are dynamically rearranged. Collaboration between design and development teams is crucial to determining not only how material should be reorganized, but also how that change will manifest visually and impact the user experience.
Popular responsive-design frameworks, like as Bootstrap, are used by many teams as a starting point for their own designs. These kinds of frameworks can be very useful for speeding up the development process. You should focus more on how the framework interacts with the specific content and features of your site than on the framework itself.
Usability testing is something we constantly suggest doing with designs. We suggest cross-platform testing for responsive layouts. Just making a website that works on a desktop computer is a challenge in and of itself. Even more challenging is making a website workable across a wide variety of element configurations, across a wide range of screen sizes and orientations. What looks great on a desktop monitor may be a nightmare on a mobile device, and vice versa.
Focusing on Content
One important part of responsive design is prioritizing content. On a desktop computer, you can see a lot more information without having to scroll, whereas on a smartphone, you’ll have to keep scrolling. On a desktop computer, users have the luxury of taking a few seconds to scan the page in search of the information they seek. It may take an interminable amount of scrolling on a mobile device before the user reaches the desired material. Users are able to quickly find what they’re looking for thanks to intelligent content prioritization.
Responsive layouts also have the potential to be slow. RWD sends the identical code to every device, regardless of whether or not it was written for that particular design. Design updates happen on the client side, which means each device (phone, tablet, or computer) gets the full code for all devices and pulls what it needs.
The code for a 24-inch desktop monitor is the same as that for a 4-inch smartphone. This can slow down a smartphone, which may already be struggling with a weak data connection. (This is why some websites employ adaptive design, in which the hosting server identifies the requesting device and sends along appropriately scaled HTML for it.)
Avoid solely testing your responsive designs on your high-speed connection at work if you want an accurate assessment of the user experience. Try accessing your site from a variety of locations and networks (including between buildings in a city, in conference rooms or basements, in remote areas with spotty connectivity, and in known trouble spots for your own cell-network phone’s connection) to gauge its performance under real-world conditions. Responsive layouts attempt to do this by making content available in the same way regardless of the user’s chosen device. If the time it takes to download is intolerable, a smartphone user cannot expect the same level of satisfaction as someone using a desktop computer.
This technique of responsive design is just that: a technique. While there are many benefits to employing responsive design when developing for many devices, it is not a guarantee of usability (just as using a gourmet recipe does not ensure the creation of a magnificent meal.) Team members need to pay close attention to the finer points of content, design, and performance if they are to effectively assist users across all devices.