Over the years, web design as a whole morphed into something that’s just as wholly simple as it’s complicated. While people put all sorts of bells and whistles on their web pages in the past, nowadays that practice is much less common.

 

The advent of clean and easy to understand websites put an end to the busy websites of the yesteryear, ushering in a new era of the some of the best website design practices.

 

Even today, those web practices are evolving at a faster rate than we think. In fact, it’s not just about designing clean and intuitive websites anymore. It’s more than that.

 

The advent of mobile

 

According to 2013 Pew Internet statistics, ’63 percent of adult cell phone (smartphone) users use their phones to exclusively go online.’ 34 percent of cell phone Internet users actually go online mostly using their phones, without using other devices like a desktop and/or laptop computer.

 

These statistics simply point to one thing: people are simply going online using their mobile devices at a more frequent rate. Throughout the past few years, people have been using their mobile devices for regular web browsing, though nowadays, that activity is becoming more frequent.

 

The frequency of people using mobile devices to browse the Internet simply means that web design has to start accommodating these users. Responsive web design was created to address the growing need of a more optimized mobile web.

 

The responsive web

 

Responsive web design is a kind of web design approach aimed at building websites that can provide an optimal viewing experience on any device.

 

This optimal viewing experience generally includes making a mobile website easy to read and easy to navigate without frequent resizing, scrolling and/or panning. The main goal in responsive web design simply involves designing a site that’s easily viewed across a wide range of devices, whether through mobile devices or desktop computer monitors.

 

Sites that are designed using responsive web design principles actively re-adapt website layouts to the device where users see the website. Many responsive website use what’s known as flexible pictures, CSS3 media queries and proportion-based grids to foster a wholly responsive environment.

 

To go into detail about these concepts:

 

  • Fluid grids, in responsive design, keep the page element sizing in relative units (percentages) instead of absolute units (pixels or points).
  • Flexible images are sized in relative units, something that helps prevent them from displaying outside their corresponding container element.
  • Media queries let pages use different CSS style rules, generally based on pre-established characteristics pertaining to the device where the site’s being displayed; these traits commonly include the width of its corresponding browser.

 

Many web developers and web designers generally choose to work with responsive designs on a server-side basis, rather than a client-side basis (via device).

 

These responsive server-side components (RESS) can help produce much faster loading websites over primarily cellular networks, in addition to presenting better usability and richer functionality over a wide variety of devices.

 

Designing for a responsive web

 

Just a few years ago, even the best website design firms didn’t immediately design responsively for their client websites. Not everyone was using the mobile web to its fullest potential, so that naturally meant that newer web design practices weren’t yet needed. Nowadays, that couldn’t be any more different.

 

Today’s web needs responsive design. Too many people now hop onto their mobile devices after using their desktop or laptops to browse the web. Too many people also use the mobile web as their only means of accessing the web. Thanks to this phenomenon, it’s important for web developers and designers to get more acquainted with responsive web design.

 

Responsive web design, today, revolves around providing complete user experiences across a near-infinite selection of screen sizes and resolutions. Due to that, web designers and developers no longer have to develop completely separate mobile versions for client websites. They only have to design one responsive website, that when viewed on any device, will adjust to fit its resolution.

 

More than just resolution

 

Though, responsive web design is more than just making sure a website works to fit the resolution of any mobile device, let alone any device. It’s also about making sure that all website elements fit together in a meaningful, and most importantly, easy to understand way for end users.

 

As an example, many web designers and developers may add content at the last moment, rather than implement content after the initial design concept is finished.

 

When it comes to the best website design practices, content is important, as it can shape the entirety of the site itself. The content is more or less going to be the reason why end users will visit your site, so it’s important to keep that in mind.

 

Presenting the content first in a responsive website design simply helps you and the designer/developer understand how your site will react to different resolutions when the content’s already in place. This can essentially help ‘nail’ a good website design from the start—one that’s both functional and practical for any end user, whether browsing from the mobile web or a desktop computer.

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