Why Mobile Responsive Website Design is Important
Everyone wants a mobile version of their website these days and rightly so! Many believe that a mobile-friendly site is a “must-have” in a brand’s web presence today, especially considering that as of April 21, 2015, Google is now boosting the ranking of mobile-friendly pages. If that’s not enough to get your attention, Morgan Stanley has recently published an 87-page report predicting that mobile traffic will overtake traditional desktop traffic in 2015. This means users on smartphones and tablets will be accessing your web pages significantly more than users on desktop or laptop computers. If your website isn’t mobile-friendly as yet, ask us about our mobile responsive web design services. Call Parachute Design in Toronto at 416-901-8633.
What is Responsive Website Design?
Mobile responsive website design is the philosophy and practice of creating an interface that is able to respond to the various screen sizes and dimensions we’re accustomed to today, ranging from desktop and laptop computers to tablets and different mobile phones. Responsive web design can also respond in real-time to user behaviour, and to unique environments or situations. Designing and developing a responsive website is a complex process that requires the understanding of a flexible grid system, plus current mobile devices and how users interact not only with those devices but with different types of website content as well. With recent advancements in technology, users can now move instantly from one device to another without leaving a web page. A true responsive design will make this transition completely seamless.
This responsive web design philosophy effectively solves the need for a dedicated website for each type of device or environment hitting the market, and ensures your website is future-proof for the foreseeable future.
A Web User Interface Design With Flexible Everything
There was a time not too long ago where flexible web layouts were reserved for businesses with the budget to create such a luxurious experience for their website users. At this point in time, the only parts of a website that was flexible were the layout of columns (structural elements) and text. Graphics would often cause layouts to break as web designers attempted to create a scalable experience for website users.
Today, we can make our website designs much more flexible and adaptable to various screen sizes and resolutions through the use of programming languages like HTML5 and CSS3. Graphics can now be scaled using CSS media queries, and we now have solutions that prevent websites from breaking, no matter how far they are scaled. With the ever-evolving screen size problem, responsive web design provides multiple options to accommodate just about any mobile device on the market today. It is especially smooth and seamless for tablets or mobile phones that have the ability to rotate their screen orientation from portrait to landscape view with the turn of a wrist, or a busy professional who finds your website while sitting at their desktop computer, but wants to access it again on their smartphone while on the go.
There seems to be an endless variety of screen sizes available to Internet users today, which can create obstacles for a web designer. Through responsive web design, we are able to target the most popular viewports and create streamlined and efficient user experiences for viewers, plus a smooth transition between screen sizes of all shapes and sizes. Some of the most common viewports we see today are as follows:
As you may notice, websites today need to adapt quickly and smoothly to a variety of screen formats and orientations in order to maintain consistent branding at all times; from the traditional horizontal layout, we’re used to seeing on desktop computers to a more vertical-focused layout on hand-held devices. To view examples of the mobile responsive web design services we offer, see samples of our web design work here.
User Experience Design for a Content-first Approach
Now that we have the technology to scale and rearrange website design elements to instantly fit any screen size (as users move from one screen to another) we need to look more closely at the content we are delivering to the viewer. Toronto web companies now have a new set of best practices to follow for responsive website environments. These include concepts like simpler or refined navigational structures and simplified and focused content, including the use of dynamic lists or rows instead of multiple columns or tables.
At Parachute Design, we believe that mobile responsive website design isn’t just about the design and development of a layout for a handful of scenarios. It is also about the user being presented with the right content at the right time, regardless of what device they are using.
Consider the way you browse the Internet when you’re sitting down with your laptop versus the way you seek out information online with your mobile phone. When using your laptop, you’re more likely to be relaxed and have the free time to read larger pieces of content or click through multiple pages to find exactly what you’re looking for. Compare this with your experience on a mobile device on the subway, in an elevator, or in the waiting room at your doctor’s office. You typically are far less likely, and have much less time, to read an entire article or click through multiple pages to find the information you’re looking for.
It is with these two very different experiences in mind that our Toronto web design company considers a content-first approach when creating a responsive website design. Through the use of CSS, we are able to hide pieces of content from the mobile experience, making it easier for mobile visitors to quickly find the most important information. We also may choose to show minified content (or short teasers) to mobile visitors to help them navigate a website, or make a decision on what to do next.
In addition to hiding content on smaller screens, we can also hide content for larger displays that should be available only in mobile instances. For example, as we hide major pieces of content, we could replace them with navigation to that particular content, or with a different navigational structure altogether, to optimize the user experience at that specific screen size or device.
Design for a Touch Screen Experience vs. The Traditional Cursor
Touch Screens are becoming ever more common in the computing world. We are used to mobile and handheld devices using touch screen functionality, but we are now beginning to see many desktop and laptop computers implement this user-friendly touch screen technology into their systems.
Touch screen experiences require different design guidelines than traditional cursor-based interaction. Additionally, the two experiences also have different capabilities to consider as well. For example, touch screens do not have the capability to display CSS hover states because there is no cursor available to hover over navigational elements. Once the user touches the screen, they essentially “click” or they “press” as we’ve come to coin the action. It is critical for Toronto web design companies to understand this change in how users will interact with navigation and linked elements, as we must make it clear which elements are actionable for all users.
For more about the difference between a touch screen versus a traditional cursor experience, read our blog article on Best User Interface Design Practices for Touchscreen Devices.
The Pros and Cons of Responsive Website Design
The advantages of a mobile responsive website design not only apply to user experience, page rankings, and to future-proofing a website. Other benefits of mobile responsive web design include:
- The website administrator only needs to manage one set of content rather than multiple instances for different versions of the site (ex. desktop, tablet and mobile)
- Time and money are saved in the long run by not having to commission the design and development of separate sites for different devices
- Design, development, and content updates to the website need only be applied once, with usually only a short amount of time spent adjusting styles for the different environments
- When a visitor lands on your website and sees you offer a mobile-friendly experience, they are more likely to think positively about your brand.
- Google is now including mobile-friendly pages in their rankings
As with all technologies, there may be some challenges that some people face with responsive web design. These challenges may include:
- The initial cost is generally more substantial than designing and developing a traditional desktop-only website. This is because the amount of work required to design and develop multiple versions of the website is roughly about three times that of a traditional “desktop-only” website. This can sometimes be a challenge when tackling website design for start-ups, but we have a tried and true approach to achieve successful results on a budget when necessary.
- The vast majority of mobile and tablet browsers support CSS3 (the version of CSS code needed for reliably dealing with media queries, and therefore making responsive design work). Some devices are further behind and rely on the older CSS2 language, which does not have full support for media queries. This means that currently, some devices would still be served with the “traditional” desktop website, although this is becoming increasingly rare.
- Internet Explorer is a troublemaker with any website design as it’s almost always the last browser to accept advances in technology and modern web programming. Many people are still using Internet Explorer 8, which does not fully support CSS3, therefore causing problems for designers and developers alike when creating a responsive website design. This issue is a relatively short-term problem as users loyal to Internet Explorer update to newer versions of the browser. Version 11 was released to the public in November 2013.
Ask Us About Responsive Website Design
Toronto web company Parachute Design has been building custom websites for more than a decade. To gain a better insight into our web design expertise, have a look at our Polar website design case study. For more information about our custom mobile responsive web design services, or to inquire about how we can help improve your online presence, please get in touch with us.
Contact Parachute Design online, through our quote request form, or call our web design experts in Toronto at 416-901-8633.