Today, websites are accessed not only through desktops or laptops, but also via other devices such as mobile phones and tablets. The way a website renders on a desktop may not be how it shows up on a mobile phone.
Responsive Web Design (RWD) is the way to create just one site that supports many devices, and renders itself across devices perfectly without compromising on the content, performance, usability, or design. It creates dynamic changes to how the website appears, depending on the orientation and screen size of the device used. Whether you are viewing a website on a tiny phone or a huge desktop monitor, RWD will display it smoothly every time.
Here is how you can use RWD to improve the user experience of your visitors.
Plan for it
Many people think that RWD is just a simple feature that can be slapped on to an existing static website. Changing the style superficially may work occasionally, but the best way to ensure enhanced user experience is to plan for a responsive design right from scratch.
Analyse the different devices, screen sizes, operating Systems, and user behavior. Determine which devices more likely to be used by the visitors. Collect as much data as possible about user behavior and based on that, slowly create an information architecture. Design a site map, and then start wire framing and prototyping. You may use tools like Foundation, Bootstrap, or Wirefy to quickly create functional prototypes which you can test for the responsive layouts. When you have a working set of wireframes, plan and write the content.
Design the website
Build the website
When finally building the website, always prioritise users because they are who you are building the website for. Always think from the visitor’s point of view and make it as easy and intuitive for them to interact with the website.
Conduct usability testing
For a responsive design, testing across platforms is always recommended. The same design element which works well on a desktop may not work on smart phones or vice versa. Test the website thoroughly with the user preferences in mind.
Plan content for better user experience
Remember that in a smart phone, users may not like to scroll endlessly to read long chunks of text. Priorities content in a smart way to help users find exactly what they need without having to fiddle with the device or the website much.
Check for performance
For a responsive website, the code that loads on a 24 inch desktop is the same as what appears on a 4 inch smart phone. The performance of both these devices will be significantly different, which means that the way the website appears and works on the devices may also be different.
To check the real performance and user experience of a responsive design, don’t test it only in your office on your high-speed Internet connection. Test it on different smart phones, at different locations all over the city, in basements, and in remote areas with spotty Internet connectivity. Figure out how to create a comparable user experience for a desktop user and a smart phone user. That is the true measure of success of a responsive web design.