What Is a Responsive Website and How to Create One
October 14th, 2016 | Natasha Englehardt
Responsive web design is critical for great SEO results and user experience. Many in the design community see responsive design as the single most important feature a website can have. In fact, Google expressly recommends using responsive design. In this post we’ll discuss what a responsive website is and the basics of how to create one.
What is a responsive website?
A responsive website is planned and designed so that it can adapt to fit any device that views it. This kind of website detects what device each visitor is using and adjusts its layout automatically to conform to device in use. This means that it works equally well for users on laptops, mobile phones, desktops, tablets and any other different types of screens.
How to create a responsive website
There is an art to responsive design and it takes practice. There are also many responsive design tools out there that make creating this kind of website easier. However, to create responsive websites designers and developers all need to implement several basic techniques in some way: a flexible grid, flexible images, scaling things down, and consideration of media queries and breakpoints.
Your responsive website needs to have a flexible grid system because this allows you to give measurements in percentages rather than pixels. For example, let’s say on the homepage I want to show a picture of my dog that is 50 percent of the width of the page. I want that to the result no matter what device the viewer is using, so I want to be able to set that measurement using the percentage, not a number of pixels.
Choosing the right images and making sure they’re flexible is also key to good responsive web design. Illustrations, photographs, and other background images work best in these designs when they can be tiled. Remember that images only work if they’re flexible, so choose backgrounds to stretch and shrink without looking odd. Horizontal gradients, scrolls and anything that doesn’t scale well horizontally won’t work in a responsive design.
Scaling things down
A responsive web design demands that you scale things down. In the past, the fixed-width approach worked well, but when devices with screens of all sizes are trying to use your site, this is no longer the case. Plan ahead instead; each web element and piece of information should be inserted so everything remains visible even it the browser width is resized. Scaling down images and elements so that they work together harmoniously on every screen (while still remaining visible) takes practice, but if you tweak and test your designs, you’ll get the hang of it.
Media queries and breakpoints
Media queries let your website choose style declarations from your stylesheets as it detects which device—and which screen width—is being used to view it. Your stylesheet should include breakpoints for more than one device so that the site is in fact responsive.
Breakpoints are just set browser widths that change the site’s layout. To keep your site responsive, you’ll want to include multiple breakpoints, and maybe custom breakpoints as well. At a minimum, be sure you include widths for smartphones, tablets, laptops, and desktops.
Responsive websites are crucial for both the best user experience and SEO results. From Google to the community of design professionals, responsiveness is widely accepted as one of the most important features any website today can have. As more and more people view websites on a wider variety of devices, designers must meet the need for websites to be usable and enjoyable at any scale—and that is the challenge of responsive design.