Elements of RWD You Must Get Right

Pete Peranzo
by Pete Peranzo 07 Jul, 2016

A responsive Web design (RWD) is one that adapts itself seamlessly to varying screen sizes, without sacrificing its core functionality in the process. It is dynamic, fluid and mobile friendly.

Some businesses choose to create separate sites for mobile viewing, which is also fine, depending on what you aim to accomplish with it. 

For most businesses, however, a responsive design is the answer to staying ahead of the curve with ever-changing mobile technology and user behavior. Non-responsive websites risk losing business to competitors. With more than half of the adults in the United States surfing the Web by smartphone or tablet, mobile is the overarching trend of the current times. You'd do well to optimize your website for the needs of mobile users. Here are some of the key elements that define an effective RWD.

Should be device agnostic

You want your website to look good on any device that is used to access it. 

Not only that, you want all of the website's key features to work well on these devices to deliver optimum user experience. 

This is the single most important feature of a good responsive web design. 

It should fit the screen of a smartphone or tablet seamlessly and aesthetically. 

A mobile-responsive site is an important requisite for businesses today. More and more people are accessing the Internet via their smartphones and this number is set to rise exponentially in the near future. 

If mobile is where your audience is, you want to make sure that is where you are, too. Google has also begun to rank local businesses based on the mobile-friendliness of their websites. Of course, that is just one of the ranking signals, but it does carry weight in your site's SEO. If you want your website to show up higher in pertinent local searches, you want to make sure your website is fully responsive. 

Should deliver a clean UX

User experience is the key, no matter the device through which it is delivered. 

Think of the user experience that you want to deliver, considering the constraints of mobile devices in mind, as well as the priority content that ought not to be missed, and design a responsive site with that in mind.

Because mobile screen sizes are smaller than those of desktops and laptops, designers must ensure the experience is adapted accordingly. This, of course, depends on the nature of the website. Some websites are text heavy, while others boast rich multimedia. No matter what, the content should be thoughtfully laid out and the site easy to navigate. 

- The font should be of the right size, not too big nor too small on a phone. 

- Users shouldn't have to scroll down too much, to the point that it becomes inconvenient for them. 

- The layout should look systematic in both portrait and landscape modes (especially for tablet and phablet viewing). 

- Menus should be easy to access and click on. 

- Think of what actions you'd want users to take on visiting the website from their device, and lay out the content with that in mind. 

It's a good idea to keep a responsive design clutter-free so that you are able to guide the users to take the desired action(s).

Images should fit, too

It's not just about the text-based content. Images should also scale up or down depending on the screen from which they are accessed. The last thing you want are pixelated pictures, or flash videos that are not loading - or worse, leading to the site crashing on mobile. 

You also do not want disproportionately large images jutting into text or with text wrapping around them. That would look shabby and unprofessional, and users have no patience for poorly performing mobile sites. 

In short, the text as well as the multimedia should adjust to different sizes.

Site should adjust to browser width

It's one thing to fit the screen of a mobile device, but also bear in mind that mobile sites are usually viewed on mobile browsers. With users having the option of increasing or reducing the size of the browsers, the sites within the browsers should expand in size or contract accordingly. 

Define your priorities

A responsive design does not simply produce a standard website on a mobile device the same way it would on a desktop. That's lazy thinking.

The idea of a responsive Web design is to meet the needs of the users, regardless of the screen size of the mobile device from which the website is accessed. 

That requires businesses to look objectively at the content of their websites to ascertain what would benefit from being included and that which should be excluded. Remember that too much text looks clunky on smaller screens and lots of multimedia can cause the site to load slowly on a mobile browser (both of which you want to avoid). It's crucial for a site to load fast and look clean and appealing on a mobile device.

As long as you stick with layouts that lend themselves well to horizontal or vertical modes, contain important information without loading the site with clutter, and are easy to navigate, you will be fine. Here are some examples of websites that have understood the purpose of responsiveness and designed an impressive mobile experience accordingly.

According to the Pew Research Center, 64 percent of American adults own a smartphone, and at least 42 percent utilize tablets. With that much traffic coming from mobile devices, responsive Web design is more important than ever - without a responsive website, a business stands to lose money.

Which aspects of responsive design have you struggled with? Which do you think are crucial for businesses to get right? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

Pete Peranzo is the CEO of Imaginovation, a full-service, turn-key digital solutions company serving Raleigh, NC and Charlotte, NC. He is a results driven individual with over 15 years in the IT and software industry. Pete's background in customer support is a driving factor in the company's long-term success and reputation. Follow him on Twitter @PetePeranzo.