Almost a decade ago, designing websites was a relatively straightforward process. With sites mostly viewed on desktops and laptops, there was little variation in screen sizes to consider. In sharp contrast, today’s web developers have to contend with the fact that websites are viewed by more mobile users. Whether you like it or not, people nowadays will likely find your website through their smartphone, tablet, or any gadget sizes in between these two. That means that web developers will have to ensure that their site displays correctly on any device, regardless of the screen size.

How do you achieve this seemingly tall task for your own website? You explore ways to make its design responsive. A responsive website design (RWD) makes clever use of CSS so the page renders well across different screens. Ideally, you shouldn’t resort to URL redirection and serving different HTML and CSS code. It isn’t a standard or technology, though; just a set of design principles that aim to make your site more versatile in presenting its content.

Responsive Web Design and Its Impact on SEO

As you’re planning to build a website for your business, the user experience will have to be on your checklist. It doesn’t even matter what industry your business belongs to and what kind of product/service you market online. By putting a responsive design in place, your target audience will be able to seamlessly engage with your website regardless of the device they view it from.

Beyond making your website flexible, a responsive design aids in improving the ranking of your site in search engines. And with the prevalent use of smartphones and tablets these days, Google has begun putting a lot of weight on mobile-friendliness as a ranking factor in its search engine algorithms. In other words, your domain has to be optimised visually for such devices if you wish to get the most from your online presence.

Responsive Design Defined

With a responsive layout, you design your site in such a way that it provides a unique viewing experience on various browsers. Your domain will display a unique interface depending on the device accessing it at any given moment. Put simply, your portal will appear one way on a laptop but would look different on a smartphone or tablet.

At its core, responsive design is a front-end development process that leverages CSS to permit a website to scale to the width of a particular screen type. For this purpose, Javascript and js libraries (e.g. Modernizr and JQuery) are used to achieve this behavior. With it, the website resizes dynamic objects like galleries and converts mouse activities to touch activities when the circumstances call for it. But unlike adaptive design or mobile detection, this design doesn’t aim for device detection. Instead, CSS media queries are used to figure out the orientation and width of a browser the website is served to.

For a better grasp of how this website design principle works, let us take a look at the fundamentals of responsive design:

  • Breakpoints

Basically, these are the points at which a site’s content will respond to provide users with the best possible view to digest information. In responsive website design, CSS3 media queries work with conditional boundaries in such a way that width of a browser triggers alternative styles or layouts.

For the most part, breakpoints can be set at any size but you have to define them at the exact widths that you’re planning to target. Working on a responsive design means that the breakpoints will have to be aligned to common dimensions like that of a desktop (1200/960px), tablet (1024/768px), and smartphone (480/320px). However, take note that these standards are changing as more gadgets of varying sizes are put up on the shelves. 

These sizes have begun blending into one another, too. This is why you see two devices nowadays that match the same breakpoint (laptop and tablet landscape for instance). But don’t be surprised to see a particular gadget with a size that is unique to it. For such challenging cases, the next fundamental element comes into play.

  • Fluidity

When this component pitches into your responsive website design, it allows the layout of your web page to resize as the window size changes. It accomplishes this versatility by defining areas of the page with percentages instead of fixed pixel widths.

Sure, fluid scaling can be done in a variety of ways, but it will always involve percentages or em values to permit a container to scale within the bounds of its parent element (or the browser it’s being viewed from). It is crucial to achieving responsiveness between breakpoints, maximize available real estate, and maintain the flow of columns in a responsive grid. Although the choice where to apply fluidity in scaling is solely up to the web developer to decide, it should exist at the top level of any responsive container.

To help you picture out fluidity, think of a grid layout. In such a setup, virtual blocks are aligned and distributed evenly over the width of the website’s body (the container). Imagine the blocks are fixed in width and aligned as inline-blocks with a fluidly scaling parent container. With this setup, the blocks break to the next line whenever the browser reaches the point at which the sum of all blocks exceeds its parent container. This is how content on responsive websites expands or shrinks to fit the window on the user’s device.

  • Approach to Implementing RWD

As it stands, there are several paths to explore in your quest to implement a responsive design for your site. For one, you can create a version of your website for each known resolution and devices available on the market. However, this is a tedious and resource-heavy option. Go for this and you run the risk of losing visitors from one device just to gain those from another, a gamble where you’ll surely lose.

Another way to go about this design process is by using responsive templates, WordPress themes, and CSS frameworks. With many of these surfacing over the last few years, it’s amazing how you or anyone can do RWD without writing a single line of code. It’s efficient but not without flaws, however. When you have little to zero understanding of how responsiveness is achieved, you’ll be in for a rough ride if anything goes wrong with your template’s code. You may be forced to redo the entire layout and waste precious time, which may be better spent planning the next steps of your web development process.

A more commonly used approach to creating RWD is using media queries to detect the user’s platform and automatically loading specific HTML and CSS styles depending on the subsequent feedback. The goal here is to design the site in such a way that it responds to a user’s behavior and environment based on platform, orientation, and screen size. A fine example of using media queries for creating a responsive site design is the use of the Bootstrap framework, which contains several pre-written Javascript and CSS files that make mobile-first front-end web development a far more manageable workload.

Why Switch to a Responsive Website Design?

If you’ve had a commercial website running for some time, you might be unsure whether implementing RWD would be a worthwhile investment. This is often the case for entrepreneurs who have no idea what the fuss on responsiveness is all about. What you have to understand is that the scope and reach of online businesses nowadays are fast expanding because of the exponential increase of people surfing the Internet on a mobile device. By making your website’s design mobile-friendly, you improve the way it looks on various devices. Subsequently, a responsive design can increase the number of people visiting your website as well as the time they spend viewing your content. Both of these are, of course, a win-win for your SEO campaign.

As the mobile trend continues to rise and become a crucial factor in Internet browsing, it should come as no surprise to see Google giving more weight to mobile-friendliness in its search recipe. Adhering to this design principle, indeed, is critical when you want your website to rank high in today’s search engine results. 

Get in touch with Digital Rescue today to know how you can make your website’s design responsive and ensure it is accessible to the mobile demographic.