Responsive Website Design: What Is It and Why Is It Important?

Web Design
Responsive Website Design: What Is It and Why Is It Important?
Article by Jelena Relić
Last Updated: July 17, 2024

With 4.32 billion active mobile users, having a static website that looks good only on computer screens means you’ll miss traffic, conversions, and money. You need a responsive website design that adapts your website to internet-access devices.

This article explains responsive website design, its key features, importance, and examples.

What Is Responsive Web Design?

Responsive web design is an approach to web development that aims to create websites that adapt and respond to the user's device and screen size. It involves designing and building sites to ensure optimal viewing and user experience (UX) across various devices, from desktop computers to smartphones and tablets.

The core principle of responsive website design is to create a flexible and fluid layout that can adjust and rearrange design elements according to the screen size and device resolution. Adaptability is achieved through CSS media queries, fluid grids, and flexible images.

Responsive design provides an optimized and consistent UX regardless of the device used, which is crucial in today’s mobile-centric world. It makes websites accessible and user-friendly, improving usability, engagement, and overall visitor satisfaction. It also eliminates the need for separate website versions for different screen sizes or devices and makes maintenance and updates more efficient.

Why Is Responsive Design Important?

In 2023, 51.52% of all web traffic comes from mobile. More than half of your visitors browse your website using a smartphone or tablet. If you offer them pages designed for desktops, which do not open properly on smaller screens, you’re providing a poor UX and deliberately causing high abandonment rates.

Some reasons besides the increasing number of mobile users why you should include responsive design in your website are the following:

  • Improved UX. Responsive design ensures your website looks and functions well on any device, providing a seamless and enjoyable UX. Users can easily navigate, read content, and interact with your site, leading to higher engagement, longer visits, and increased conversions.
  • SEO benefits. A mobile-friendly website is a ranking factor, but search engines also favor responsive design. Responsive website design adapts to different devices, facilitating search engines to crawl and index your content.
  • Cost-Effectiveness. Instead of having different versions of your website for different devices, responsive website design allows you to have a single site that adjusts to various screen sizes. Responsiveness saves time and resources in development, maintenance, and content management.
  • Futureproofing. Responsive design ensures your website is ready for future devices and screen sizes. As new devices with different dimensions are coming, your responsive website will automatically adapt to them without requiring extensive redesign or redevelopment.
  • Social sharing. Responsive websites are more likely to be shared across different devices and platforms. Users can easily share links to your site on social media because they have a consistent and positive experience, regardless of the devices they access your website from.

How To Design A Responsive Website in Eight Steps

To achieve full responsiveness, follow these best practices when creating a website:

  1. Use HTML + CSS
  2. Define Media Queries Ranges
  3. Position Layout Elements
  4. Incorporate Responsive Image
  5. Insert Responsive Typography
  6. Check Website Speed
  7. Test Responsiveness
  8. Test The Website Manually on Different Devices

Alternatively, you could always reach out to professionals in the field.

1. Use HTML + CSS

HTML and CSS are the foundation of responsive design.

HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) is like the framework of a webpage; the standard language controls the page's structure and content. Structure the HTML to allow flexibility and adaptability when building a responsive website.

CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) makes things look good on a webpage. It's like the stylist who decides how elements should appear. In responsive design, CSS adapts the layout and design elements to different screen sizes. Adaptability is achieved through media queries, allowing CSS rules to be applied selectively based on the device's characteristics, such as screen width, height, or orientation.

2. Define Media Queries Ranges

When creating a responsive website, you must define different ranges or breakpoints where your design will adapt to different screen sizes. These breakpoints determine how your website will look and function on various devices.

For example, let's say you're following the standards set by Bootstrap, a popular framework for building responsive websites. Here are the media queries you would use:

  • 576px for phones. When the screen width is 576 pixels or less, your website will adjust its layout to fit well on smaller devices like smartphones.
  • 768px for tablets. When the screen width is between 577 pixels and 768 pixels, your website will adapt its design to provide an optimized tablet experience.
  • 992px for laptops. This range covers screen widths between 769 pixels and 992 pixels. At this size, your website will respond to the larger display of laptops and adjust its layout accordingly.
  • 1200px for large devices. For screen widths bigger than 992 pixels, up to 1200 pixels, your website will cater to larger devices such as desktop computers and provide a design that uses the available space.

Setting these media query ranges ensures your website looks and works well across different devices, offering an optimal UX for each screen size.

3. Position Layout Elements

Typically, websites have several common layout elements, including a wrapper or container, header, content area, sidebar, and footer. You can use percentages or a CSS grid layout to style these elements.

Using percentages, you ensure that the layout elements proportionally occupy a specified percentage of the screen width, allowing them to adapt to different screen sizes. The "float" attribute controls whether a component appears on the left or right side of the screen.

You can dive into CSS flexbox layout to explore more advanced techniques, which offer additional attributes like box-sizing and flex. Flexbox allows for more flexible and modern responsive designs, giving you finer control over the arrangement and behavior of elements within a container.

4. Incorporate Responsive Image

One way to make images adapt to different screen sizes is by using a dynamic unit to control their width and height. The dynamic unit ensures they adjust proportionally to fit the screen. However, a problem arises because users must download the full-sized image even on small devices where a smaller image would be sufficient, which can slow down the website.

To solve this, developers use the HTML srcset attribute. Srcset provides multiple versions of an image with different sizes. When a user visits the website, their browser automatically selects the most appropriate image size based on their device's screen width. This way, users receive an image that looks good and loads quickly, improving the website's overall performance.

Manually managing the srcset attribute for each image can be time-consuming. However, if you're using a web design tools like WordPress, this process becomes automated when you upload media files. The CMS automatically generates and includes the appropriate srcset values for each image, ensuring the optimal version for all devices.

5. Insert Responsive Typography

When creating a web site, adjust font sizes to different screen sizes. A common approach is to set a static value for the font size, like 22 pixels, and then adapt it for different screen sizes using media queries. Using media queries to adjust the font size based on screen size ensures that the text remains legible and visually balanced across different devices.

You can apply different font size values and target other text elements as needed within your media queries to create a genuinely responsive typography experience for your website.

6. Check Website Speed

When creating a responsive website, ensure it loads quickly. Fast-loading pages keep visitors engaged, while conversely if a website takes a long time to load, people might get impatient and leave without even seeing the content.

To load your website faster, do the following:

  • Optimize images. Smaller images load faster. Compress big images to reduce their file size without losing quality.
  • Use caching. Caching is like saving a copy of your website on the user's device so that when they come back, it loads faster.
  • Minify code. Removing unnecessary spaces and comments from the code will make it smaller and load faster.
  • Choose a good layout. How elements are arranged on a website can affect how fast it loads. Use efficient structures designed to load quickly.
  • Make it mobile-friendly. Google confirms that more than 50% of web traffic comes from mobile devices; therefore, ensure your website loads quickly on mobile devices too.

7. Test Responsiveness

Here are a few simple ways to test the responsiveness of your website:

Google's Mobile-Friendly Test

To check the mobile-friendliness of your website, use Google's Mobile-Friendly Test. Enter your website's URL and click the "test URL" button. Testing might take a minute or two, after which

Chrome Developer Tools

You can also use Chrome Developer Tools to test your website's responsiveness on multiple screen sizes. Press CTRL + Shift + I on Windows computers or Command + Option + I on Macs to open the relevant device view. From there, you can choose a mobile device or tablet to simulate how your website looks and behaves on different screens.

Responsinator

Responsinator is a free online tool that allows you to test your website's responsiveness across various devices. Simply enter your website's URL, and the tool will display how your site appears on different screen sizes and orientations.

BrowserStack

BrowserStack is a comprehensive cross-browser testing tool that allows you to test your website on real devices and browsers. It offers various device and browser combinations, making it helpful in trying responsiveness on different platforms.

8. Test The Website Manually on Different Devices

One of the most accurate ways to test responsiveness is by directly viewing your website on different physical devices, such as smartphones, tablets, and various screen sizes of desktop computers. This approach lets you feel the UX and how your design adapts to different devices.

We'll find qualified web design agencies for your project, for free.
GET STARTED

Five Responsive Web Design Examples

Look at these prominent examples of some of the best responsive website designs:

  1. Shopify
  2. The Boston Globe
  3. Dropbox
  4. GitHub
  5. Dribbble

1. Shopify

Shopify's responsive design ensures a seamless and visually appealing UX on various devices:

  • Consistent UX across different devices
  • Adjusted placement of the CTA button based on screen size (to the right on desktop and tablets, below on mobile)
  • Modified order of illustrations based on screen size (to the right on desktop and tablets, below on mobile)
  • Optimized page loading speed

2. The Boston Globe

The Boston Globe's responsive design ensures that the website is accessible and readable on various devices:

  • Well-thought-out news-related website with a responsive layout
  • Uses a conventional approach suitable for running frequently updated online magazines
  • Information is divided into three columns, which adapt to different screen sizes
  • Columns decrease in number as the screen size decreases, transitioning from three to two and finally to one column
  • Allows for a flexible and customizable order of displaying content blocks

3. Dropbox

Dropbox demonstrates effective, responsive design techniques that optimize the UX on various devices while considering device-specific limitations and user behaviors.

  • Tailors the UX to each device to enhance usability and engagement.
  • Font color adapts to the background color when transitioning from desktop to mobile devices.
  • Images change orientation to optimize the viewing experience on different devices.
  • Adjusts the visibility of the signup form based on the device's screen size, hiding it behind a CTA button on tablets and mobile devices where space is limited.

4. GitHub

GitHub's responsive design ensures a seamless user experience across different devices while making necessary adjustments to layout and functionality.

  • Offers a consistent UX across all devices
  • Adapts the layout above the fold when transitioning from desktop to mobile devices
  • Places the copy above the signup form on mobile devices
  • On mobile devices, only presents a CTA button for the signup form, requiring users to click the button to reveal the form
  • Removes the search bar and hides the menu behind a “hamburger” icon on handheld devices to reduce clutter and optimize space

5. Slack

Slack's responsive design features a flexible grid, adapting to screens of any size. Certain elements are removed to enhance the UX, while the grid layout is adjusted.

  • Removes some aspects on mobile devices to prevent clutter
  • Hides the menu behind a hamburger icon on handheld devices
  • Eliminates the search bar to optimize space on mobile devices

Responsive Web Design: Final Thoughts

Responsive web design means creating websites that seamlessly adapt to all devices. They ensure a seamless and enjoyable UX by adjusting the layout, typography, and images to fit each screen - from desktops and laptops to tablets and mobile devices. By embracing responsiveness, websites can reach a wider audience, improve user engagement, and stay relevant and competent in the ever-evolving technology world.

Responsive Website Design FAQs

1. Are WordPress sites responsive?

The responsiveness of a WordPress website depends on the theme you use. Some themes are designed to be responsive and adaptable to different devices. Astra, Divi, Avada, Authority Pro, Kadence, and Hello Elementor are some of the best choices in terms of responsiveness. However, some themes are, by default, less adjustable and might not be the best solution for responsive website design.

2. What are the main components of responsive web design?

Three main components of responsive web design are

  • Media Queries
  • Fluid or Flexbox Layouts
  • Responsive Images
Our experts will find the best web design agencies for you, for free.
GET STARTED
Subscribe to Spotlight Newsletter
Subscribe to our newsletter to get the latest industry news