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Does your website really need to be ‘responsive’?

Does your website really need to be responsive?

It is pretty hard to ignore the fact that there has been a lot of hype about Responsive Web Design (RWD) in recent years: But what exactly does this oft-referenced term mean? And just how vital is it for you to make sure that your next web design project follows a more ‘responsive’ path?

RWD in a nutshell

RWD is an approach to web design which enables websites to provide an optimal user-experience, regardless of the device which is being used to access and interact with them.

Websites which are deemed to be ‘responsive’ will typically adjust their layouts using a fluid grid structure which is based around flexible, relative units, such as percentages, rather than fixed pixel sizes.  By using such a system, it is possible to set ‘triggers’ which can totally change a layout, to better suit, for example, a lower screen resolution, or portrait-format proportions.

Why does a website need to be ‘responsive’?

Gone are the days when the only way to view a website was via a clunky CRT computer monitor, or to interact with it via a keyboard and mouse.

The rise in popularity of tablets, smart phones, smart watches, smart TVs, smart watches and other, more exotic pieces of web-enabled tech – has totally changed how the average user views and interacts with websites.

Forward-thinking web designers throughout the world have reacted to this significant shake-up by rethinking how sites are designed – and built.

Put simply, RWD is here to stay – and if your website hasn’t been designed to provide an optimal experience for all of your users, you could be missing a trick when it comes to generating conversions: After all, providing a great user experience is an essential piece of the puzzle when it comes to transforming your site visitors into paying customers, valuable leads, or simply happy users.

What kind of considerations need to be made when designing a responsive layout

The display size

On one hand, you have smart TVs (and popular devices like Apple TV and Google Chromecast), which enable users to view websites on their massive wall-mounted flat-screens, from across a room.  On the other hand, you have traditional desktop computers and laptops, with monitor sizes ranging from 10” to 27” on average.  Next, you have tablets, with anything from a 7” to a 10” screen size – and then of course, smartphones, which these days range from anywhere between a compact 3”, to the ‘phablet’ sizes of 6” plus (‘Phablets’ are crossover devices which essentially bridge the gap between phone and tablet).

With such a huge range of sizes to think about, an unyielding, traditionally-coded website may require a lot of user interaction (zooming in, scrolling, etc.) in order for the user to effectively read its content, or navigate.  Worse still, some elements which might be perfectly usable with a mouse and on-screen cursor – could essentially be rendered useless when the input device is a user’s fingertips, or when the display is so far away that the text cannot be read!

The screen proportions

In the same way that screens come in all kinds of sizes, they also come in a range of shapes: From the newest ultra-wide 21:9 ratio panoramic monitors, to old-fashioned, nearly-square 4:3 displays.  When one considers the fact that many devices allow for websites to be viewed in ‘portrait’ format, instead of the traditional ‘landscape’, it becomes clear that a traditional, fixed-width design is no longer an ideal approach to take.

The input device/s being used

As touched upon already, a keyboard and mouse might be the traditional means of interacting with a website – but on a small touchscreen device, navigational elements need to adapt, so that they are large enough to be practical – without taking up too much valuable screen ‘real-estate’.  In some cases, a top or side navigation bar might be coded to disappear altogether, being replaced instead with a menu button – which then toggles the navigation on and off as required. Techniques such as these help to make the user experience much better across the board, since a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach is no longer a viable option when it comes to web-design.

Does my website really need to be responsive?

If you care about how your website comes across to your site visitors, the short answer is yes.

The slightly longer answer can be summed up with three simple, but valid points:

  • Today’s savvy user expects all reputable websites to be responsive.
  • Most conservative estimates expect mobile browsing to overtake standard desktop browsing in the near future.

With a responsive design, you’ll future-proof your site and give your users a better experience.  And we all know that happy users equal improved business!

About Graham Lyons

Graham is the SEO and Social Media Marketing Manager at Cozy Digital and the editor of the Cozy Digital Blog as well as contributing content for most of our social outlets like Facebook, Twitter and G+. Graham has been working in, and writing for the SEO / SMM industry since 2001 and is still as dedicated and passionate today as he was when he opened his first Website Design, Ecommerce and SEO company in 2004. You can connect with Graham and Cozy Digital via the social media links below:

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