A huge number of websites remain inaccessible for mobile users due to the surprisingly slow uptake of responsive web design. More than simply mobile-friendly, responsive web design facilitates viewing on all devices and is essential for achieving optimum interactions with customers, clients and fans. In addition, as new technology is introduced and browsing behaviour adjusts to suit, websites need to look good while introducing functional features to improve user experience.
Responsive web design isn’t solely about the page layout. An attractive web page will initially attract viewers, but the web involves more than just looking at one page. The internet is for people who browse, and the experience needs to be seamless and enjoyable. Generalities regarding screen size and input methods are a thing of the past, with the variety of devices increasing almost annually and interactive alternatives continually expanding. Future-proofing your website is important both financially and aesthetically.
Responsive web design statistics
How much does the average person understand about the importance of responsive web design? Probably not much, if statistics are any indication. Here are a few facts as of 2016 according to the Sweor web design agency.
- Mobile internet browsing had surpassed desktop browsing numbers by 2014
- Approximately 60% of browsing is performed using mobile devices
- 80% of smartphone users view retail content online monthly
- 40% of people choose an alternative result if the content isn’t mobile-friendly
- 34% of smartphone users spend more time online with their phones instead of using a laptop or desktop computer
In addition, as of mid-2015, Google started rewarding responsive websites with higher page rankings. Astoundingly, almost 91% of small businesses still don’t have a responsive website suitable for mobile use.
Some considerations for responsive web design
The ever-changing screen size is reason alone to favour responsive web design. After the 1990s web pages increased from 640 pixels to 800 pixels and then 1024 pixels. Then the advent of mobile browsing a few years ago turned everything on its head. Screen sizes began shrinking and arbitrary pixel numbers became irrelevant as old websites became a jumbled mess on the new devices.
The loss of functionality became even more obvious with the advent of alternative interactive methods. Websites were previously designed with the majority of users in mind, but browsing methods have changed – most noticeably the touch screen replacing the mouse. Mouseover interactions are unwanted and unsuitable for touch screen devices and alternatives are required.
The proliferation of cheaper, less powerful computers is another consideration for web designers and developers. Not everyone has a super-fast computer that provides rapid download of online media. Individual browsing preferences that include the blocking of unwanted content should be implemented in the design.
Responsive web design should also incorporate display standards for mobile phones that facilitate web browsing outside in the sunshine. It’s amazing how almost all of us blindly tolerate technological imperfections without giving them a second thought. The above scenarios are just a few reasons why website designers and developers should be working together as a team. A lot of heartbreak, wasted time and wasted money can be avoided.
Touch, tap, swipe or Enter?
Every computer command requires activation by a mouse, a tap, a swipe, a gesture or some other method. Many devices provide several different ways to interact, and some devices act in entirely contrary ways to others. The lack of consistency is confusing and frustrating for many users, especially those who are a little slower to adapt to new technology. Just when they have finally mastered the system, an entirely new procedure is introduced, the rules are changed, and users find themselves back at the start of a new learning curve. This is part and parcel of computer evolution, but consumer frustration is very real and shouldn’t be ignored.
Designing for new applications
Many website designers are stuck in the past, firstly developing a site to fit a standard desktop screen before testing the waters on smaller devices. Progressive developers are more likely to first create a page that looks great on a small device. When developing for small devices, essential features come first due to size restraints, while unnecessary features and page ornamentation can sometimes be scrapped altogether. Mobile browsing has resulted in developers and designers creating websites that look clean and are easy to navigate.
Traditional website design includes headers, logos, navigation bars, widgets and footers scattered all around the page. Text was then crammed into the little remaining space in the middle of the page. It’s strange that a visitor to a page is given so many options to immediately leave again. It seems more logical to provide quality user-friendly content that encourages a person to read on, rather than the distraction of a hundred different bells and whistles that divert reader attention.
Responsive web design should begin with the actual reason people visit the page – the content. Once content is established, we can begin to determine if the widgets, logos, headers etc should be moved, minimised or removed altogether. Responsive websites work best without distracting clutter.
Responsive website design is one of the most progressive enhancements, where the most important information and features are displayed for ease of use across all devices, while unwanted clutter is redundant.