In the year before I graduated, I needed to create a website for my design portfolio.  While everyone in my class decided to go their own way with their design and layout, I knew I wanted my website to be responsive. Why? I thought it looked cool when you shrunk it down and I wanted a challenge. Now after just a few months working at Launch Digital Marketing, I’ve learned the real importance of responsive web design and how best to use it.

Responsive Web DesignWhat is responsive web design?

Responsive web design aims to provide every user with a great viewing experience on all their different devices.  This means that a site is built to look great on your tablet, your phone, or your wide screen monitor. Responsive web design uses “media queries” to figure out what device you are using and then adapts the content on the screen to your size.  As more and more people are using their smartphones and tablets to roam the web, this approach has the more obvious benefit of reaching more users and making sure they get all the information they need, without having to use a desktop computer.

Why not have a separate site?

In the past, most websites have built a mobile site that is a completely separate website from the site you would see on your computer. The problem with this is that if a company wants to make some changes to their website, they better make sure to update their mobile site too, which doesn’t always happen. With the growing amount of new devices and resolutions, it would be highly impractical to build separate versions of a site.

Is it just the same site.. but smaller?

While some websites may choose to just shrink their content proportionally so that it is readable, others may choose to rearrange layout, remove items, or emphasize others. For certain websites, a user may have a clear purpose for visiting their site such as wanting to find the location or the phone number to call.  In some cases, it would make sense to emphasize these items for mobile devices.  You may also want to remove some text for smaller devices to avoid having the user to scroll continuously to find what they are looking for. Sometimes putting every piece of information from the website on a smaller screen isn’t the best option and could actually drive users away from your website and on to the next, and with so many other websites for a user to choose from, you want to keep them on your page. When creating a responsive site, you have to think about the way a user may interact with your site and what you want them to do.  This may mean making Call to Actions larger and easier to find, while shrinking or even hiding some of the graphics you used on your full site.  Responsive web design isn’t just about creating a flexible layout, but showing your users you understand what they want and what they are looking for.

Responsive web design may not be a final answer in the long run, but right now it can be a powerful tool if used in the right way.  While it does “look cool” to watch the website adapt as you shrink the browser size, it serves a great purpose for the users of your website. You can give your user what they need and help create a custom experience no matter what device they are using.

Meet Sarah Dawson

Sarah Dawson is a web and graphic designer at Launch Digital Marketing. She recently graduated from North Central College in Naperville receiving a B.A. in Interactive Media Studies specializing in Graphic Arts. She enjoys traveling, cooking, and going to concerts.