Checking out an awesome responsive website design

How to design a responsive website?

By Colin
Last updated
10 June 2022

The high street, a doctor’s waiting room, a bus stop - wherever you are, it is rare to look around and not see someone accessing information on their smartphone.

Few of us now leave the house without our mini-computer in our pocket; and we even feel a little lost if we do so by accident.

Today, 55% of global website traffic comes from mobile devices. Whilst desktops and mobile devices were relatively equal in terms of traffic over the last few years, the technological, social and economic changes brought about by the pandemic saw mobiles surpass 50% for the first time in 2020. However, this figure excludes tablets, which accounts for a surprisingly low 2.4%.

Our ever-increasing ranges of connected devices have vastly different screen sizes and resolutions, and as such, a static website no longer provides an adequate digital solution. Web developers must also account for 2 in 1 laptops, e-readers and games consoles, amongst others.

Those accessing the internet from a mobile device are usually looking for immediate answers to their search query, wanting results that are quick and easy to find. So, as with business itself, by being more responsive to your customer’s needs, you will inevitably win more business.

What is responsive web design?

Put simply, the responsive model ensures that your website’s design adapts to different screen and browser window sizes. Providing consistency, it ensures that your website looks its best on all types of device, meeting the needs of all users.

A responsive site sends the exact same HTML code to the browser regardless of the device and uses CSS to control the layout so it is appropriate for the device - and importantly, its user.

The traditional desktop structure, just doesn’t work well when viewed on a small screen. It becomes cumbersome to navigate, hard to read, and most importantly, when it comes to your business, hard for your customers to interact with you. So, you could be missing out on enquiries or sales.

Why is responsive website design important?

Provide a better user-experience (UX)

Provide a better user-experience. (UX). As mobile traffic has now overtaken desktop access, half of your website visitors are viewing your content on a small screen. No one wants to scroll left and right or pinch and zoom to be able to read your content. Users only get frustrated when trying to click on tiny ‘close’ crosses with comparatively large fingers, inevitably mis-clicking and ending up in the wrong place entirely. 

A bad user-experience creates a bad customer experience, increasing the likelihood of your potential customer bouncing out and heading to a competitor. A better user-experience will see your readers remain on your site for longer, they will view more pages absorb more of your sales messages and ultimately deliver more conversions and increase business growth.

Cool website designs

Make your site accessible to all

All users should have a comparable user-experience regardless of ability or personal situation; therefore, accessibility is a vital element of user-experience. Designers should show consideration for all potential end-users, combining usability, graphic design and accessibility to remove any barriers to deliver a first-class experience. 

The W3C accessibility guidelines state that thought should be given to colour contrast, the photosensitivity of any flashing imagery, text size options and copy written in plain English. Video content should be captioned - this is not only useful for hearing impairment but for all watching on mute. Similarly, high-contrast settings make it easier for all to view the site in bright sunlight.

Screen reader software is commonly used by those with a form of visual impairment so alt text should always be optimised; Alt text reads a description of an image through the screen reader. This copy is also indexed by the search engines, boosting your organic SEO. If alt text is missing, the software reads the image file name, which really isn’t much use.

If a site is inaccessible, it is unusable for those with a disability. In the UK, this accounts for 20% of the population. In addition, 4.5% have colour-blindness – significant percentages of individuals who could be accessing your site.  Accessibility is not only the right thing to do; inclusive design creates a better user-experience for all and means you can engage with more people.

Improve your organic SEO

So, what does this increased mobile access mean for your organic search ranking? It is a little known fact, that whilst you may rank well for your desktop site, this does not mean that the same is true for your mobile search results. In fact, 30% of sites that appear in the top 10 results on a desktop, do not even appear on the first page for mobile.

Considering the amount of mobile traffic, this reduced visibility you could see your web leads plummet. Consequently, checking your website is fully optimised for mobile traffic is essential when you consider that 75% of people never scroll past the first page of search results^.

Only 11% of websites retain the same search ranking position for on desktop and mobile.

SERPs, Traffic and Trends: Mobile vs. Desktop in 2021 [Study], Semrush

Google is driven by the user-experience so recommends user-friendly responsive design as it avoids error-prone redirection for users. The approach requires less web build time and reduces the possibility of common mobile site mistakes. Improving efficiency, responsive web design helps Google accurately index your site.

Prioritise your website speed

Thankfully, the frustrating dial-up days are far behind us. However, that doesn’t mean that page load speed is a thing of the past. In fact, it is more important than ever following Google’s Core Web Vitals update last year; an algorithm that focuses on three page experience metrics, one of which being page speed.

A clear, minimal mobile design takes a shorter time to load, and therefore avoids any potential ranking penalties for slow performance. By keeping it simple and clutter-free, you prioritise the key content and easy navigation, making it faster for your customers to find what they are searching for. Focused on user-experience for SEO, Google currently holds almost 95% of the mobile search market share so will only assist your organic ranking.

What are the central components of responsive web design?

When it comes to responsive design, there are three main elements involved in website development – that make all this possible. When it comes to responsive design, there are three main elements involved in website development – that make all this possible. 

Flexible grids provide a layout structure, which can dynamically adapt to fit any screen size. All elements of the site are added in flexible containers, so they can be resized by the CSS. This prevents the need to hard code each asset, saving time and money.

Viewpoint meta tags are central to responsive design as they tell the browser exactly how it needs to arrange the content to scale it to the device. Website developers add HTML code to each page to give specific instructions on how to adjust dimensions. If this isn’t present, the browser will default to desktop version and attempt to improve the content by increasing font size or scaling to fit. This can result in only part of your content being displayed. 

Media queries allow designers to apply a set of rules based on the browser used, such as width, height and resolution. They are also super helpful at determining other key factors, which can heavily influence the design of interactive elements. For example, whether a user is navigating with a mouse or using a touchscreen.These rules are only applied when certain conditions are met – think of them as optional codes that can be displayed for specific devices.

How does your current website fare?

It is important to continually monitor, test and tweak your site, either internally or by working long-term with web design services. Websites become outdated quickly, but you don’t necessarily mean you need to fork out for an entirely new website. 

It’s always best practice to regularly review your site across multiple devices as part of your wider marketing strategy. Whilst digital agencies, can assist with a web audit, you can take simple steps in-house to ensure your users stick around on your site for longer.

Ask your team to report on their user-experience or employ a focus group to gain valuable feedback. Google’s helpful mobile-friendly testing tool can help you access your current sites performance and prioritise web design and development. It provides recommendations on how you can increase visibility; increase your ranking and your business performance. You may have overlooked something simple that by changing it hugely increases your conversion rate. It’s very easily done.

website tech

Representing a fundamental shift in web development, responsive design isn’t solely about ‘making it fit’. It provides a different way of thinking about flexible web design.

Whichever device your visitors use, responsive sites enhance your design for an optimal user-experience without limiting the information provided or compromising on a striking design.

By reducing the steps needed to find the key information searched for, your visitor gets what they are looking for quickly and easily. This positive user-experience contributes to your organic SEO ranking, will boost conversions and build your business faster.

If you’d like to learn more about responsive website design, feel free to get in touch.